Deathmatch 2017 – Finals

Leaderboard_Week4

Back to the Lightning Round Results , Round One, Round Two

Rules:

Step One: Read the stories.
Step Two: Create a user account for comment and voting access.
Step Three: Vote for your favourite. Repeatedly. You can vote once every hour.
Step Four: Sound off in the comments. (Check out below for the commenter perks)

Like your favourite comments.

Liked Comments = greater voting power!

Bronze: 50 up-votes will earn commenters Bronze status, which means that their votes will count for 2.

Silver: 200 up-votes will earn commenters Silver status, and their votes will count for ???.

Gold: ??? up-votes will earn commenters Gold status, and their votes will count for ???.

Gold: 400 up-votes will earn commenters Gold status, and their votes will count for 5. – See more at: http://www.brokenpencil.com/deathmatch-2016/deathmatch-2016-lightning-round#sthash.htH5irfx.dpuf

Step Five: Blog, tweet, tell all your friends – help your favourite author win!   #bpdeathmatch
Step Six: Repeat until Deathmatch Champion is crowned winner!

Click here for the extended description of Deathmatch rules and regulations. VOTE AND COMMENT! By registering an account you agree to be signed up for Broken Pencil’s newsletter. You can unsubscribe at any time.

TopComment

And then there were two

Out of the wild flock of wordsmiths unleashed
Washed ashore by winds from the north-east
Making it here has been no feast
A constant war with a mighty beast
But the two of them are alive at least.

In the ocean behind, those who didn’t pull through
Lizards and poets who went down as they knew
That they wouldn’t stand among the last few
And others would drink the victor’s brew
But the two stand tall as they start anew.” – Hege Lepri

-admin

Moulting

By: Madeeha Hashmi

The grass always wrapped around my ankles in your backyard. My skin was printed with phantom anklets whenever I was outside hanging the clothes to dry. They were little circle arguments persuading me to stay and never leave. I let my feet be convinced deep into the soil, without thinking about how I would weed myself out of your life.

Read on...

Jean Claude Van Damsel in Distress

By: Ryan Power

This story begins at the end—the end of a 1000 year lineage of Ninjas.

Van Damsel stands, eyes ablaze under her ninja mask, knuckles bloody. Seventeen bodies litter the dusty street of the one-horse American cowboy town. She’s royally Kung Fu-cked the Hanoku Clan, terminating what was, until yesterday, the deadliest clan of ninjas on Earth. Yesterday Van Damsel stole the Clan’s sacred and all-powerful Shadow Scroll from their secret headquarters in Japan. Then they’d chased her halfway around the world on their solar powered hover bikes, finally catching her in this buckaroo boondocks. But they were too late, she’d already solved the riddle and absorbed the Scroll’s power—gaining the ability to disappear into any shadow and reappear out of any other shadow. Now she has the power of four out of five scrolls. One more and she’ll become Queen of the Ninjas.

Read on...
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104 Responses to “Deathmatch 2017 – Finals”

  1. Susan Read ( User Karma: 1412 ) says:

    So, Peter’s entertaining with flash fiction, Hege’s rockin’ ballads… Me, I like to write rhymes.

    Test test
    This is not a
    Click click
    Cos I gotta big
    Dickensian dilemma –
    What’s’a matter?
    Take your pick:
    Lotsa chatter,
    Thoughts too thick,
    Sky’s too grey,
    Book’s too wordy,
    Days too plain,
    and nights absurdy.
    Never had
    great expectations
    for success,
    or any patience,
    just a penchant
    for expression
    fuelled by tension
    and depression.
    Not my fault
    the world’s all endin’,
    Add some salt
    and try to blend in.
    Exhausted,
    as the authors of this mess we’re in,
    Final question,
    Can a writer ever really win?

      • Susan Read ( User Karma: 1412 ) says:

        Not yet! I haven’t performed spoken word before– I have pretty severe performance/people-watching-me anxiety, so that’s a bit of a hurdle, though I’ve definitely thought about it. Especially since I started writing raps and rhymes, they seem only half alive sitting on the page. But I feel nauseous just thinking about it, haha, so it might be a ways off

        • P.D. Walter ( User Karma: 1453 ) says:

          “A big Dickensian dilemma” – am I reading that right? Is there a rather bawdy bit of punning going on in there? 😉 Nice job!!

          It’s funny how many teachers are either shy or anxious or not fond of public-speaking! (So why do we do it?!) Maybe you should try taking Improv classes? Do you ever read your work in public? I sometimes think writers are the shyest entertainers in the world: they want to tell stories and entertain, but from the safety of their bedrooms, offices, desks, or wherever their laptops take them. 🙂

          I am right on the borderline between introvert/extrovert, but definitely more introverted, so I find teaching really draining. You? I suspect that, like me, you find the performance art aspect of this Deathmatch game/election/contest really tiring. It has been good, though, at forcing those of us not fond of self-promotion to get out there and stand behind our work in a public forum. And you’ve done a great job of it, Susan, or you wouldn’t be here!! 🙂

  2. Susan Read ( User Karma: 1412 ) says:

    Welcome Peter, readers, and rogue voters who prefer to judge us based on author’s pics or just play numbers games (I know you’re out there, Larry)–Congratulations on hanging through a tumultuous, dramatic, but damned if it wasn’t entertaining month. To the fallen word warriors, I wish you all the best and will keep my eye out for your names in print! That’s not just lip service, I think you all proved yourselves both insane and courageous enough to “succeed” as writers. If you figure out how to make money doing it, you have to let the rest of us know.

    I just wanted to thank, again, the voters who came out of the woodwork to save my ass. As always, your anonymous donations are greatly appreciated. I’d love to know who all or at least some of you are. The comments have fallen rather quiet, and while I have no doubt that Peter and I can keep ourselves entertained, I expect it will be more enjoyable for everyone if others join in the conversation.

    We promise to be nice–unless you’d rather we not.

    Looking forward to spending one more week with you crazy bastards.

      • Chaos McKenzie ( User Karma: 104 ) says:

        Congrats on long ride, Susan. I suddenly realized I have a question for you… Was there any more fallout with Tarsucks since you left the company? Is there any fear if you win they’ll suddenly come out of the shadows for you?

        • Susan Read ( User Karma: 1412 ) says:

          Hey, thanks, for this and all your kind words here. I’m just catching up after a weekend with my 2 and 4 year old nephew and niece. I need a nap! But this is something I wanted to clear up, based on some comments, including by BP, that suggested this might be my OJ Simpson’s “‘If’ I Did It” moment.

          So just to be clear, for the historical record, I did not steal “the” or any money from Starbucks at any time. This interview occurred pretty much as you see it, I didn’t exaggerate the repetition, nor did I make up the part where I questioned my own sanity and memory of events. I wanted the story to make you doubt me because the interrogation made me doubt myself. I’ve been fascinated by false confessions and interrogation methods since this happened, and whatever I’ve learned has confirmed that that is exactly what they were after.

          I never heard from them again, nor did the police track me down. I still have no idea who took it or how it happened, or what they think they saw on video. I wasn’t a supervisor and I had no access to money beyond the till, and I liked it that way.

          I DID see a couple of work-friends a few times for drinks after this happened. All I learned was that I was the only person they interviewed (they told me everyone who worked “that night” would be), and that the young girl we sort of suspected of the theft had a rich daddy lawyer. The matter had been dropped.

          Anyway, I’m not worried, In fact, I’d love to chat with the good people at Starbucks again and get my long awaited apology. They or anyone else can hunt me down on Instagram (susanQread)

  3. EmilyS ( User Karma: 53 ) says:

    Congratulations to both authors. I enjoyed reading both stories, and wanted to share my thoughts on them with the authors.

    PD, I loved your story and thought it was very clever. I felt the emotional weight of the characters, and it was surprising to read a short story of this length with characters that were as fully developed as yours. I would enjoy reading about these characters interacting with other people in future stories. There is something cathartic about Katie’s decision, even if many of us would never leave the people we love and who we have responsibilities to.

    Susan, your story had a nice thriller aspect to it. Did she or didn’t she do it? Your writing of the interrogation reminded me of the twisted logic in books like The Circle (a book I loved), where they try to convince the employees that they are a family and “sharing is caring”.

    Thank you both for sharing your work through this contest! Good luck 🙂

  4. emi ( User Karma: 58 ) says:

    I have to admit I haven’t gone through all of the comments in previous rounds, so forgive me if this topic has already been broached.

    I’m wondering if there have been any discussions about the writing process: how do you get to know your characters and what inspired you about them to begin with? Did you start with the characters or the situation? Do you like the characters in your story?

    • P.D. Walter ( User Karma: 1453 ) says:

      Can’t speak for the other writers here, but I suspect they’d say something similar – that it differs from story to story. Sometimes it starts with an idea for a character (sometimes based on a real person, maybe even yourself – or some aspect/version of yourself), sometimes from a concept, a clever or provocative idea for a beginning or ending, an image, a theme, or even a title. Hege had a nice take on it in an earlier post. She quoted Robert Frost as saying, “A poem begins as a lump in the throat, a sense of wrong, a homesickness, a lovesickness.” I’m sure that can go for stories too!

      In the case of ‘Sick to Death of Stories’, it started from a thematic idea born of a frustration with certain bedrock story structures and meanings – good guys prevailing, bad guys being punished, the morality of stories always coming down in the same way, etc. (I was probably reading too many writing books about basic plots!! And struggling to understand the appeal of some of these popular anti-heroes that are so numerous these days, i.e. Walter White, Dexter, etc.). Once you’ve become sensitized to noticing those basic structures in all stories, it makes it hard to see any one story as doing anything really new. At best, you can try to distract the reader from noticing the ‘bones’ of the story, which are fundamentally the same going back thousands of years. Or at least, that’s how I was feeling when I wrote it! Not sure if I still feel that way… 🙁 🙂

      Anyway, that led to the title and that led, backwards almost, to the characters. But that’s an unusual approach, for me, anyway. More often it starts from a human situation you want to explore (an old man returning to the home he lived in with his family and trying, awkwardly, to befriend the new family that lives there), or a curiosity about something – like who lives in these condos made out of old churches? Are they religious or secular people? Don’t they feel weird about having sex in a church, etc.?

      As for liking the characters, of course, you like some more than others (just like real people!!). But something about them should be “relatable” for the reader (not a word I am fond of, but easier than saying “able to be related to”!). Somewhere – can’t find it at the moment – Robert McKee makes a distinction between sympathetic and empathetic characters. By sympathetic he means likeable, i.e. nice, good people. He doesn’t think characters have to be sympathetic for us to enjoy their stories. But they do have to be empathetic, meaning something more like ‘relatable’ or recognizably human, no matter how evil or flawed. Even if they make choices we wouldn’t make or don’t approve of, or have flaws that we abhor, etc., we still recognize their fundamental humanness and thus are more forgiving toward them than we might be if we encountered them in real life. Indeed, that – to me – is the whole point of writing or reading fiction: to enter into an empathetic understanding of people we might never meet, get to know or like in real life.

      (‘The Wire’ was an excellent series for this, BTW; almost no character was fully ‘good’ or ‘evil’, they all had contradictions and dimensions to them, virtues and vices. You could empathize with almost everyone, no matter how tertiary they were to the main plot, or which ‘side’ they lined up on. That, to me, is a hallmark of really great character writing.)

      Wow, sorry – that got a bit thinky! Hope it answered your question. 🙂

      • emi ( User Karma: 58 ) says:

        Thanks for the thoughtful response PD.

        You’re right about the relatability of the piece being important- although I think that is what made reading your story so compelling and also painful for a sensitive reader such as myself. I felt like I was cringing at the different decisions all the characters were making, trying to nudge them into acting in a way that was completely out of character but would fulfill my desire for ‘things to work out’. It was all too real, and conjured up the uncomfortable feelings I have walking through life: questioning if I truly understand what is happening between the ears of the people I have relationships with.

        I have heard SO much about the WIRE, but alas, my inability to sit still and watch anything without wanting to jump out of my skin or run behind a door to shield myself from all the feelings prevents me from watching… Is it available in book form?

        • P.D. Walter ( User Karma: 1453 ) says:

          Haha, fair enough! 🙂

          No, I don’t think ‘The Wire’ exists in book form, though the same writers (David Simon, Ed Burns) did write a book called ‘The Corner: A Year in the Life of an Inner-City Neighbourhood’, which (also) became an HBO series. But if you are that sensitive, I don’t know what you are going to get out of it. They both deal with the open drug scene in Baltimore and its related criminality and human costs, but ‘The Corner’ is like ‘The Wire’ without any of the relatable(?)/empathetic(?) – if very imperfect – cop characters in it. So, pretty bleak!!

          Anyway, thanks for jumping in. 🙂

          • Chaos McKenzie ( User Karma: 104 ) says:

            Rant by Chuck Pallahniuk (sp?) has a very “Wire” heavy feel to it, but is extremely fictional not realistic. For Wire type writtings though I would highly recommend some comic book materials… “Goldfish” “Jinx” and “Sam & Twitch” by Brian Michael Bendis is very in tune to the realities of the Wire as is “The Fix” by Nick Spencer and Steve uh, I can’t figure out how to spell his last name… it’s more crooked and funny than the Wire but is rooted in that same bluntness. Highly recommended.

    • mitchandarlo ( User Karma: 228 ) says:

      Hi emi,

      My sister, who has made her living writing, suggests to me with regularity that writers writing about writing is a low, dismal and definitively boring topic. I tell her that’s one adverb too many. She has writer seniority over me (unless you count my more famous early works, like, “I eat and recommend Steinbach Bakery bread!”) and so I will take her word for it, no matter what Ms. Wachtel (respect) and others (some in this contest) have to say.

      I do it on my blog (write about writing: WAW) but that’s just a catharsis thing. Kinda like a pick-up line to meet other writers; “Bare your soul here often?”

      Also, I freely admit that when the greats WAW, I LTL (love to listen). (Herr Vonnegut is my fav example.) – m

      • emi ( User Karma: 58 ) says:

        Whoops, didn’t mean to ask such a boring question. I personally found Murakami’s book “What I Talk about When I Talk About Running” to be a bit boring myself, so now I get the banality of my question.

        I guess I should have been specific about my curiosity about the process in these particular stories. Specifically because I personally didn’t like any of the characters in the two stories that have been selected for the final round.

        That being said, reading these other responses, I realize that what I did appreciate about both of the stories is that I was able to see the world through these set of eyes that I found quite disturbing (in the case of Susan’s story) and painful (in PD’s story). I guess this is what PD mentioned when he talked about it being important for the reader to be able to empathize with the characters, but not necessarily like them. (I don’t know how thorough people are with reading these comments so I’m going to repeat myself a little bit in my response here as I also reply to PD’s response.)

        I’m not familiar with Vonnegut, but will take a peek at the link PD shared. Would be curious to be able to read up on your WAW on your blog if you’d care to share a link?

        • mitchandarlo ( User Karma: 228 ) says:

          Exactly, PD! KV also wrote a cool lil essay about the construction of a short story. It was like an owners manual – “How to Assemble Your New CCM Bicycle”. I love it. Can’t find it. Too lazy to look it up. Someone else may jump in with the name? It was like, “Step Three – make your hero as miserable as you possibly can. Have no mercy.”

          • Chaos McKenzie ( User Karma: 104 ) says:

            Fuck. He will be missed. I feel the author of Fight Club (I always spell his name wrong) was a good spiritual successor to KV, but not so much with his switch to comics and graphic storytelling.

      • Hege Lepri ( User Karma: 864 ) says:

        Your sister may be right, Mitchell, but I find reading Writers on Writing the most delightful of all procrastination techniques to put off my own writing.
        Not that I necessarily take anything useful away from it.
        Kundera’s The Art of the Novel didn’t do anything for my writing, but I got to use it a lot as a name-dropping exercise at parties.
        Orhan Pamuk’s “The Naive and Sentimental Novelist” put me completely off writing because his writing is so good – and I could never measure up to that.

        But Pamuk has some great quotes about writing that remind me of my own process (or lack of process):

        “I am just listening to an inner music, the mystery of which I don’t completely know. And I don’t want to know.”

        “I am most surprised by those moments when I have felt as if the sentences, dreams, and pages that have made me so ecstatically happy have not come from my own imagination – that another power has found them and generously presented them to me.”

        Unfortunately, my inner music isn’t as good as Pamuk’s but such is life.

          • Chaos McKenzie ( User Karma: 104 ) says:

            I’m a full on bibliophile with a huge book and comic collections. Reorganization is my favourite procrastination, followed closely by extreme research in all details of whatever I’m doing.

            • P.D. Walter ( User Karma: 1453 ) says:

              For me, probably eating, sleeping, house cleaning, reorganizing my desk/room/bulletin board, journaling, research/reading (if I am avoiding writing something), and too many movies. The Toronto Public Library just has such a good collection. Or the poor-man’s version, watching movie trailers on iTunes. Or going way down into a YouTube wormhole. 🙂

        • mitchandarlo ( User Karma: 228 ) says:

          Yeah, I should read more of those WAW books. It’s just, you know, reading windsurfing magazines did not teach me how to jibe. The technique information helped. The articles encouraged me. But in the end, falling down 500 times while jibing on windy days taught me. So – like windsurfing (clumsy metaphor, now mixed, crosses the finish line, wheezing for breath) – it’s about balance.

          • Chaos McKenzie ( User Karma: 104 ) says:

            I kinda hate those WAW books, they make my anxiety percolate and frustrate me. I feel its like sex, everyone’s got their own style and technique. Sure you can watch some porn for ideas, but really its all about the heat of the moment.

  5. Vicky Savage ( User Karma: 839 ) says:

    Greetings from Paradise! Congratulations to the finalists, Peter (aka P.D.) and Susan! We who have fallen by the wayside salute you! Best of luck to you both! I will be abstaining from voting in the final round because I love your stories equally, and in my opinion you are both quality people in addition to being very fine writers. I wish to thank everyone who voted for and/or commented on “Fogger.” I appreciate your support more you will ever know, and I relish the comments I received from my fellow writers. Even though I did not respond to them all, I did read them and have taken them to heart. Please forgive me for choosing not to alter my schedule or lifestyle in order to be more engaged in this rousing but somewhat dubious competition. I will say in hindsight, even after the frustrating website glitches, the senseless negativity in the comments, and the inane voting system, I will look back on the Deathmatch as a mostly positive experience because of the opportunity to read your amazing stories and meet such a diverse group of talented writers. I did indeed gain a great deal from that, and I thank you all. Anyone interested in continuing the exchange of ideas, please drop me a line through the contact page on my website, http://vickysavage.com/contact/ . I’d love to stay in touch! In parting, I once again borrow words from that eloquent silver Terminator guy: “I know now why you cry. But it’s something I can never do. Goodbye.”

    • P.D. Walter ( User Karma: 1453 ) says:

      Aww, thanks, Vicky. This is a very heartfelt and much appreciated. Your story is beautiful, original and evocative of something quite profound. It’s one of the stories I would most like to have seen expanded into a longer narrative. All the best in your further adventures! 🙂

  6. P.D. Walter ( User Karma: 1453 ) says:

    Fun with Flash Fiction

    This piece (just an exercise, really) was inspired by a playing card from the game ‘Dixit’, which some of you may know. (If you don’t, it’s a great game you can play with your 8 year-old-niece or your 80-year-old grandma.) You can see the card in question by clicking here: http://pdwalterbooks.com/flash

    _____________________

    THE ENCHANTED FOREST (NOT SO ENCHANTING)

    So I’ve been standing here for – oh, gosh, how long is it? 91 days. (I’ve been marking little notches into the bark on my arm to remember.) And I gotta tell you, while I may only be 16, I’ve seen a lot of crazy stuff going back and forth through this forest playing my drum over the years. Wolves and bears, naturally, but centaurs too, sinister gingerbread houses, kids jammed into ovens, witches and equally wicked stepmothers behind every bloody tree and shrub, and too many dwarves to count!

    But what they don’t tell you when they’re scaring you to death with morbid, really pretty violent, scary folk tales that – let’s be honest with ourselves – transparently use fear to manipulate kids into being good (it’s just like some religions, but don’t get me started on that…) – no, what they don’t tell you is that IF you happen to bite into a poisoned apple (they’re everywhere; it’s ridiculous! Really, if we had any kind of reasonable government out here there would be big signs up on every third tree warning people: ‘DO NOT EAT ANY APPLES IN THIS FOREST: They’re ALL poisoned, just FYI) – but IF you happen to bite into one, and it just happens to turn your arm into a tree branch and your feet into gnarled roots (I mean, really, as curses go – that’s not the worst; I consider myself to have gotten off pretty lightly there) – but IF this happens to you, and you simultaneously are NOT thrown into a state of suspended animation or dreamless sleep or whatever it is – WARNING, PEOPLE! – you STILL need to go to the bathroom!!

    And yet here I am, 91 days later, stuck in place and absolutely ready to burst. I can’t even tell you how many times I have tried to reach over and pick up that drum of mine to tear the hide off it and squat down, but I just can’t reach the goddamn thing.

    Living in an enchanted forest really does leave an awful lot to be desired. 🙁

    ___________________

    Anyone have a fun image link, title, opening line or theme for a new piece of (low-stakes) flash fiction? Feel free to jump in with your ideas, or your own short pieces! 🙂

    • Chaos McKenzie ( User Karma: 104 ) says:

      Mary Jane –
      Everyone thought she was super-intense, but she was just stoned.
      cm

      Life Choices –
      Maybe tomorrow I will start over, but I struggle with being a quitter.
      cm

      The Struggle –
      My mind and body have never agreed on much.
      cm

      Shadows –
      I have never met a man who loved a beautiful mind alone.
      cm

      Alone –
      Time sometimes rolls by so slowly, I forget you by every inch, every fibre, every atom.
      cm

      Digits –
      I give my phone number to everybody, because nobody ever calls.
      cm

      • P.D. Walter ( User Karma: 1453 ) says:

        Some lovely lines in here, sad but true:
        “I have never met a man who loved a beautiful mind alone.”
        “Time sometimes rolls by so slowly, I forget you by every inch, every fibre, every atom.”
        Thanks for sharing them. 🙂

    • Chaos McKenzie ( User Karma: 104 ) says:

      That Guy, Beside You
      It didn’t matter the expectations, it didn’t matter the intoxications, he did not mind the pass, but he was not of the same intention. He shared the heat, the rush, the want, but he was not after you had to offer and he was not sympathetic to you loneliness or bother.

      cm

    • Chaos McKenzie ( User Karma: 104 ) says:

      When Autumn Came
      The faery lands burned and blistered, as imaginations died under designer polished hees and celebrity gossip skin regimes, every thought being verified digitally. Elves and goblins, dwarves and trolls, clutched and huddled, escaping as refugees into the lands of man – where the cost of life came with a sacrifice to trends and followers. Then, without realizing, autumn leave fell early one summer, as the last drops of faery blood soaked into the cracks of tedious… brittle… minds

      cm

    • Chaos McKenzie ( User Karma: 104 ) says:

      Last ones … I swear… I promise… The Goblin Trilogy

      Stormy Afternoon –
      There was a goblin, small and tiny, bent and wiry, who never could decide just what to do. Bored with dice, done with cards, thru with bikes and drinks and bangs and jumps and things of all sorts. A bored goblin, such as this, has only one last option left to them. You might feel significantly anxious and guilty having not been able to entertain them. So what comes next is, simply put, all on you.
      cm

      What a Goblin Does –
      A goblin in need of an impossible number of pine needles, once sold the raccoons of Denver rifles to reclaim their lands and win access to prized garbage bins. It happened, it’s real, but don’t ask about it, those raccoons keep tight control and the goblin is never mentioned. But really, just look at Colorado, and you know it’s true – a goblin did his business there.
      cm

      Moonlight Performance –
      There lives a flamboyant goblin above the rafters of our ceiling. It likes to sing duets at night with theatrical cats, but claims how we must be crazy when complaining, for whoever heard of a goblin acting like that?
      cm

      • P.D. Walter ( User Karma: 1453 ) says:

        These are great. This is ultra-flash fiction, so super-short, but very evocative. 🙂

        I wonder if Hege’s right, though. Maybe best not to burn through this stuff on message boards. You’ve posted half a chapbook’s worth of stuff. Don’t work for free!! 😉

        • Chaos McKenzie ( User Karma: 104 ) says:

          Meh. I posted all of those on Instagram before I unplugged from social media, so they are already out there in the ether, the cloud, or whatever… there will always be more

          Thanks though.

  7. Wyatt McRae ( User Karma: 1020 ) says:

    Good luck to these two Gladiators!

    Much blood has been spilled (both human and lizard), but such glorious violence has left us with worthy contenders!

    Now FIGHT! Fight for glory and a place amongst the stars!

  8. P.D. Walter ( User Karma: 1453 ) says:

    Well, let me be the second (that Wyatt, he’s a quick draw!) to congratulate Susan on her huge victory yesterday! Wow, it was crazy watching the votes come in over the weekend. You did spectacularly well. A hearty CONGRATULATIONS!

    Also, to say THANKS (hopefully not goodbye!) to our competitors, Rachel and Vicky, both great sports, both great writers, both great stories that will surely live on here, in the pages of BP, or somewhere else in the ever-widening physical and virtual land of Arts & Letters.

    I think everyone would agree the tone of the discussion was much better last week, if also quieter as people slip away, their chosen candidates already eliminated, perhaps. (Come back to us, you gentle souls! We miss you! 🙁 )

    So, I don’t know, Susan, it might be a lonely week for us! It’s a funny result: two teachers, both in their 40s (I gather), both of whom have been working for years to break through in various ways (correct me if I am wrong about any of this!!).

    I’m delighted to be here with you and look forward to more interesting discussions this week, though I’m not sure what they will be about – we’ve already covered so much territory!! 🙂

    For now, then, another poem…
    __________________

    The (Slightly Mournful) Ballad of the Round of Two

    “Now we enter the round of two
    Feeling ever so strangely blue
    With two more fallen comrades out
    What is there left to talk about?
    Like lonely sheep we graze these fields
    Pondering our last-ditch appeals
    Forlorn survivors of the herd
    Who’ve already spilled so many words…”

    • Susan Read ( User Karma: 1412 ) says:

      I’ll be 34 for in April, but since we haven’t met in person I’ll take that as a COMPLIMENT rather than a slight lol

      The rest is pretty spot on though, it is interesting. We’ll have to see who pops in to join us!

      • P.D. Walter ( User Karma: 1453 ) says:

        Ee-gads, my apologies, Susan! 🙁 I thought you had said something about your age in an earlier post.

        I can think of lots of pleasant ways to pass the time this week. We could probably have a pretty great back and forth about teaching and how it does or doesn’t help or play into our writing?

        I also thought it might be fun to run a kind of informal FLASH FICTION ‘contest’ this week, where we post very short fictions each day based, perhaps, on themes/titles/opening lines suggested by other participants. (No worries if you don’t have the time!)

        I just suspect that neither your story nor mine reflects the full breadth of our writing abilities, and I feel like our job in this competition is, in part, to be dancing monkeys! So, why not have some fun writing FICTION here instead of blathering back and forth in boring old non-fiction essay, missive, gripe, personal essay or invective form?! 😉

        Other who are still paying attention could jump in with their FLASH fictions too.

        What about you, PARTICIPANTS? Any fun suggestions to inspire some 300-600 word FLASH FICTIONS? 🙂

        • Susan Read ( User Karma: 1412 ) says:

          This is a nice idea Peter, I’ll have to wait and seem how my week shapes up. As a substitute teacher, I won’t know if I’m busy until it happens! Extra rough because this website is blocked at most public schools due to “profane language” so I can’t even vote when I’m working.

          Hopefully I will have some time to contribute more creative pieces with you here–though, on the other hand, it’s been snowing for two weeks and Mama needs to pay for the Blondie/Garbage tickets she just bought, so I really need to work!

          I’ll let you know as the week goes on, and we’ll see if there’s any more feedback

          • P.D. Walter ( User Karma: 1453 ) says:

            Oh, no! Those f&%$ers! They don’t think kids have seen/heard that language? They’re marinated in it, no? 😉

            Can’t you vote on your phone? (It is killing my data plan, so I might have to stop too!) 🙁

            I may post a funny little bit of flash fiction I wrote this weekend (really just an exercise in one of my writing groups), but yeah, we’ll see if there’s time, energy or enthusiasm for flashing our skills, as it were. 😉

            I also have a few more comments I’d like to make about your story (constructive, respectful, like you’d get in any well-run writer’s group), along the lines of your last few posts in Round 2, but I don’t necessarily want to get into that unless there’s an appetite for discussing the stories. How about you? Are you up for more feedback?

            And the offer of a chat about teaching remains on the table. I gather you did your B.Ed. in the past few years? I did mine in 2010/2011, but the Toronto Board has basically fired High School teachers every year since I graduated, and my teachables are very generic (English, Social Studies – no French, no Physics, no Math!), so I have mostly taught in the private ESL world, which is a different, much more relaxed kettle of fish. Anyway, pluses and minuses. It does give me a good amount of time to write, which I am thankful for. You? Must be hard to plan your schedule around teaching gigs that you don’t know are coming or not.

        • Susan Read ( User Karma: 1412 ) says:

          I just remembered that I wrote that “My friends are too old” in a poem, so that would be a good way to throw you off. But you know, 30 is the new 60, I’m pretty sure

          I should have written “My friends have babies and early burgeoning careers”, that would have been more on point

        • Hege Lepri ( User Karma: 864 ) says:

          If you write flash fiction – I’m not sure you should burn your pieces on a message board. Geist magazine has extended their postcard fiction contest deadline to the end of this month, so get out there guys, and participate. (And if you get published, Geist has one of the largest print runs of all Canadian literary magazines, so your reading really gets read by a lot of people.

          • P.D. Walter ( User Karma: 1453 ) says:

            Oh, I wouldn’t post anything worthy of Geist! Just some fun exercises to pass the time…

            But thanks for the heads-up about the submissions. Much appreciated. 🙂

            • Hege Lepri ( User Karma: 864 ) says:

              My rejection history with Geist hit a low point once they rejected a flash fiction piece without even sending me a note. Submittable just notified me my piece had been moved from “received” to “rejected”. It was clearly not worth 5 seconds their time even.

          • Chaos McKenzie ( User Karma: 104 ) says:

            Progeny.
            She read an article in Cosmo, telling them to get it all out of the way.
            So she and the husband worked at a pace to produce… the rebel, the indignant, the gifted, the destroyer, and the babe, in what seemed like five rapid flashes. And then every day after was ever the same.

            cm.

          • Chaos McKenzie ( User Karma: 104 ) says:

            She Once Did Something Awful (with a mostly valid reason)
            If she went inside, it would all come out. Every detail, every secret, it was all set-up and ready for exposure. So she didn’t go, didn’t even tempt the key. Turning sharply, and walking completely out of the s…

            cm

  9. Rachel Rosenberg ( User Karma: 980 ) says:

    Morning P.D. and Susan,

    I just wanted to say good morning and good luck to you both. Remember to eat and sleep and all that tomfoolery, I am going to go do something zen, like flying a kite or dancing naked in the woods. Actually I’m not super into nature, so I probably won’t do that second one. Especially because if I’m naked I could get scratched or people could take pictures and post it online, so there’s a whole bunch of problems with that scenario for me. But something. Something good.

    I’m Audi 5000. Have fun!

  10. Chaos McKenzie ( User Karma: 104 ) says:

    CONGRATULATIONS to the finalists… tough options, I honestly can’t choose between you. Good luck guys!!! Hugs and Hi5s and all that kind of excitement. I’ve been ducking out on the comments but still voting. I’m extremely thrilled for you both! Good show!!! You both managed to keep your heads above of the muck and mire, be proud of your accomplishments, you are both so deserving. I’ll paypal a beer for the looser (location issues), but you both are winners at this point! Good show!

  11. P.D. Walter ( User Karma: 1453 ) says:

    Final Weekend!! Deep breath. It’s been a marathon. Now it’s a sprint.

    Perhaps one last poem for good luck?

    ODE TO THE INDIE WRITER

    He or she, it matters not,
    Who aspires to the great writer’s lot
    Must serve a term toiling away
    As an Indie Writer for little pay
    It starts in childhood, or teenage years
    Inflamed by passionate loves and fears
    That Indie authors write about
    And try to get their message out
    A zine, a blog, or chapbook too
    Whatever method that we choose
    Our way of working’s DIY
    All big fish start as smaller fry

    We build an audience of friends
    Do open mic nights, and what then?
    In any place we’ll hawk our wares
    At Canzine or at small press fairs
    Keep cranking out our verse or prose
    Pride’s the profit our work shows
    We work crap jobs just to get by
    ’Cause money’s tight, in short supply
    But being read both far and near
    Has ever been our dream career

    At any age, however late,
    We still aspire to graduate
    From stapling our pamphlets true
    Making books with paste and glue
    And sending off our envelopes
    To mags and journals e’er in hope
    That an editor will see our spark
    And we’ll break through – at last, it starts!

    But until then one never knows
    How long our beards or braids may grow
    Before the world can be persuaded
    Our Indie flame has never faded… 🙂

    • Chaos McKenzie ( User Karma: 104 ) says:

      NIce. Best of luck to both of you in the final few hours. I’m giving Susan my support, as the underdog, but I honestly feel you both deserve to win. I know I put my foot in my mouth earlier, but I’m honestly not a horrible person and I really wish you both the best.

  12. Susan Read ( User Karma: 1412 ) says:

    Peter, i just wanted to offer you a hearty congratulations! Safe to say this race is over, I had suspected for a while we were playing for second place (although I’d still like to know where my wild sweep of support came from last weekend! One for the Deathmatch mystery pile) Your support base is obviously dedicated, and that says a great deal about both your writing and character. Well done! I’m afraid I didn’t have time to prepare a concession speech or rap, but please ask Jonathan Goldstein to come back to the CBC for me, lol. That and a global Starbucks boycott were my humble goals for this contest, so, you know, whatever you can do 😉

    • P.D. Walter ( User Karma: 1453 ) says:

      Thank you, Susan. It has been an honour to be in the finals with you. Just surviving this long is a genuine achievement. I really like your story and you have been a great competitor throughout, so I consider myself very lucky to have had you for an ‘opponent’, as odd a word as that seems. 🙂

      The way the votes have come down puzzles me as much as anyone, since I was not the highest vote-getter overall in any round prior to this one, and a number of really good stories failed to advance. But I think you hit the nail on the head this week when you posed the question in your poem, ‘Can a writer ever really win?’ That’s one for all of us to continue to ponder.

      Anyway, do reach out and keep in touch if you want to. And see you again in the pages of BP! 🙂

  13. P.D. Walter ( User Karma: 1453 ) says:

    Inspired by Jonathan’s earlier efforts, I thought I would try some ASCII text art.
    Can you make it out?

    ____ __ ____ ____ _ _ ___ __ _ ____
    (_ _) / _ ( _ / ___) / ) ( / __) ( / ) / ___)
    ) ( / ) / ___ ) / ( ( (__ ) ( ___
    (_) _/ _/(__ _) (___/ ____/ ___) (____) (____/
    ___ __ ____ ____ ____ ____
    / __) / ( __) ( __) ( __) ( __)
    ( (__ ( O ) ) _) ) _) ) _) ) _)
    ___) __/ (__) (__) (____) (____)

    _ _ _
    (_) | | | |
    ___ _ ___| | __ | |_ __
    / __| | / __| | / / | __ / _
    __ |( __| < | | | (_) |
    |___/_| ___|_|_ __ __/
    _ _ _ _ _
    | | | | | | | | | |
    __| | __ _ _ | |__| |__ _ __ __ __ _ | |_ ___| |_
    / _` |/ _ / _` | __| '__ | '_ ` _ / _` | __/ __ | __
    | (_| | __/ (_| | |_ | | | | | | | | | | (_| | | | (__| | | |
    __,_|___|__,_|__ |_| |_|_| |_| |_| __,_|_____|_| |_|

    • P.D. Walter ( User Karma: 1453 ) says:

      Maybe periods instead of spaces??? 🙁 (Last attempt!)
      .____..__…____…____…._…_….___….__.._….____..
      (_…_)./._..(…_…./.___)../..).(…./..__).(…./…)../.___)..
      …).(…/……..)…../..___…)…/..(.(..(__…)…..(….___…
      …(_)._/._/(__._).(___/..____/..___).(____).(____/.
      ..___….__….____…____…____…____…………..
      ./..__)../……(…__).(….__).(….__).(…__)………..
      (..(__.(..O..)..)._)…..)._)……)._)……)._)…………
      .___)..__/..(__)….(__)…..(____).(____).

      …….._…….._……….._………………………
      …….(_)……|.|……….|..|……………………………..
      .___._..___|.|..__…|..|_..__…
      /…__|.|./.__|.|./../….|.__./._……
      __….|(..__|…<…..|..|…|.(_).|……………………
      |___/_|.___|_|_…__..__/.
      ……._…………….._……_…………………………._……….._
      ……|..|…………….|..|….|..|……………………….|..|………|..|……
      ..__|..|.__….._._.|..|__|..|__._.__.__…__._.|..|_.___|..|_…
      ./.._`..|/.._…/.._`.|..__|..'__.|.'_.`._…/.._`..|.__/.__.|..__…
      |..(_|..|..__/…(_|..|..|_.|..|..|..|..|.|..|.|..|.|.(_|…|..|.|.(__|..|..|..|.
      .__,_|___|__,_|__.|_|..|_|_|.|_|.|_|.__,_|_____|_|..|_|.

    • P.D. Walter ( User Karma: 1453 ) says:

      Oh, man – that looks terrible! Let’s try this again. (It looks totally different in the little compose window than it does when you post it! 🙁 (Bonus points to whoever can decode it!!)
      ____ __ ____ ____ _ _ ___ __ _ ____
      (_ _) / _ ( _ / ___) / ) ( / __) ( / ) / ___)
      ) ( / _ ) / ___ ) / ( ( (__ ) ( ___
      (_) _/ _/(__ _) (____/ ___/ ____) (____) (____/
      ___ __ ____ ____ ____ ____
      / __) / ( __) ( __) ( __) ( __)
      ( (__ ( O ) ) _) ) _) ) _) ) _)
      ___) __/ (__) (__) (____) (____)

      _ _ _
      (_) | | | |
      ___ _ ___| | __ | |_ __
      / __| | / __| | / / | __ / _
      __ | |( (__| < | | | (_) |
      |___/ |_| ___|_| _ __ __/
      _ _ _ _ _
      | | | | | | | | | |
      __| | __ _ _ | |__| |__ _ __ __ __ _ | |_ ___| |_
      / _` |/ _ / _` | __| '__ | '_ ` _ / _` | __/ __ | __
      | (_| | __/ | (_| | |_| | | | | | | | | | | (_| | | | (__| | | |
      __,_|___| __,_|__|_| |_| |_| |_| |_| __,_|_____|_| |_|

      (I think that's the best I can do…)

  14. Hege Lepri ( User Karma: 864 ) says:

    As my very last contribution – an Ode to the Winner (Or a Farewell to Arms)

    He’d travelled too far to let go of the blaze,
    That burned so brightly inside;
    Had gone through a lot in all sorts of ways
    ‘Cause in war there is nowhere to hide.
    He’d joined the battle in wintertime,
    But often he’d pined for home,
    The bloodshed, the cold and the pantomime;
    The endless waste of precious time
    And still no sight of the winner’s dome.

    But as he caught sight if the prize ahead
    He straightened his back and beamed
    “Nothing can stop me now,” he said
    “The is the ending I dreamed.”
    One is a lonelier number than two, —
    He’d heard his friends proclaim.
    But what did they know of the chosen few,
    Who live to see how the world bright and new
    As they dry their brows in a winning game.

    (And that will be my last attempt at rhyming for a good, long while – unless Broken Pencil is looking to add an Occasional verse Mediator to their team. No? Didn’t think so.)

    • P.D. Walter ( User Karma: 1453 ) says:

      Hey, Hege,

      I don’t know if this is directed at me, but I just wanted to say it’s been a lot of fun trading verses with you back and forth over these three and a half weeks. You inherited your mother’s gift! 🙂

      Your story is great and I hope you keep submitting it elsewhere, because it should absolutely be in print.

      All the best, Peter 🙂

  15. Hege Lepri ( User Karma: 864 ) says:

    And then there were two

    Out of the wild flock of wordsmiths unleashed
    Washed ashore by winds from the north-east
    Making it here has been no feast
    A constant war with a mighty beast
    But the two of them are alive at least.

    In the ocean behind, those who didn’t pull through
    Lizards and poets who went down as they knew
    That they wouldn’t stand among the last few
    And others would drink the victor’s brew
    But the two stand tall as they start anew.

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