Write Club is an annual contest run by the inestimable DL Hammons (@DL_H) in partnership with the DFW Writers Conference. During Write Club the community of readers and writers comment on and vote between anonymously submitted 500 word excerpts in an elimination-style competition. The participants all get feedback regarding their writing, and the winner earns a free pass to the following year’s DFW Writers Conference.
Below is part two of a journal compiled of the notes I took throughout my experience this year. Author links were added after the fact. Part one can be found here.
Apr 4, 2016
The play-off round has begun and my piece is up! I already regret my decision to go with the end of Impact. Without all the trimming I did, the ending feels too … convenient? … sudden? I don’t know, but it’s clear that the commenters, while appreciative of the feeling of hope it presents, don’t find the interaction believable.
I’m up against Hunley (Melissa Embry) this round, who presented a second installment of the soldier story from the first round. Hunley writes strong dialogue and provides a good balance of dialogue vs internalization. I particularly like the bit about the ease of being a dog. I wish I had a dog’s ability to relax right about now. I’m a little terrified at how many votes Hunley got last round compared to the small number of votes I got to win my round.
Apr 10, 2016
The voting was neck and neck all week. Write Club dominated my thoughts no matter what I did. Probably because mostly what I did was check votes.
I just received the official “moving on” email on my phone and it inspired a crazy little giggle that made everyone at this family BBQ look at me. I’m not usually a giggler.
I have two more excerpts ready. One is a piece from a story I wrote several years ago and has been polished repeatedly. The other is a flash fiction I wrote a couple of weeks ago, specifically with a 500 word limit in mind. I’ve gone over it several times and workshopped it with my Round Rock group. It hasn’t simmered like the other one has, but it’s an entire story. Which to send?
I just flipped a coin and the Fates decided I should send the flash fic.
Apr 11, 2016
My semi-final piece is up and there are problems! The two flashback lines aren’t italicized like they’re supposed to be and the last paragraph is missing. I emailed DL’s wife about it, so hopefully it will be fixed before too many people do their voting.
A FEW MINUTES LATER
She’s already responded and it should be fixed up shortly. The folks running this contest – DL Hammons and his wife, Kim – are amazing. I can’t imagine what they are going through to make everything run so smoothly.
While waiting for her to respond I read my competition – Helveticaw’s post-apocalyptic scene. I know I’m not going to vote in this round because if my story weren’t mine, I’d vote for Helveticaw (Elizabeth Twist, @elizabethtwist). That piece, while a little light on action, is so well written. It hints at personal drama and the struggles of having to rebuild a broken society (two of my favorite story elements). I can take pride in a loss to Helveticaw.
Apr 17, 2016
As with all the other rounds, I tracked the votes religiously through the semi-finals. As the vote swung in my favor, I spent several hours reading and re-reading my final excerpt. It’s one of my favorite scenes, although I had to trim it pretty extensively to make it fit 500 words. I don’t think it’s my strongest piece – I used my strongest piece to enter the contest – but it’s right up there. I’ve edited it so many times this week I could probably recite it from memory. As soon as I get the official email from Kim, I will send it off. Fortunately, I have family in town this week to distract me from obsessing over the panel of guest judges and their secret voting.
Apr 18, 2016
I’m up against Night Songstress (Joy Lucas, @JoyLucas23)for the final round! I have admired the powerful imagery in her excerpts since the very first round. I voted for her in all but the Semi-final round, when I intended to vote for her, but apparently got so caught up in my own semi-final results I forgot to vote at all. I suspect this is where my quest for the Write Club title will come to an end. Seeing someone so qualified win will make the heartbreak of losing a little more manageable.
I’m already looking forward to going to DFW Writers Conference for so many reasons. Knowing that I am in the finals of Write Club 2016 is a delicious icing on that cake.
Apr 21, 2016
Although we couldn’t see the official voting by the guest judges, DL asked the commenters to post their predictions. I’ve watched the popular vote go against me all week. I’m surprisingly okay with it. This experience has already given me more recognition for my writing than I ever have before. I’m willing to keep paying my dues for a while.
I get to meet DL and Night Songstress at the conference. How exciting!I hope other participants are there as well.
Apr 22, 2016
As we drove to Fort Worth last night, I had an anxiety attack about the conference. I’m not sure if I’m more anxious about being in a conference full of strangers, standing on stage, or learning the results of the contest. It’s all swirling around in my stomach unpleasantly. My heart keeps doing this thing where it forgets its job for a fraction of a second and then spends five minutes racing in apology.
I haven’t told anyone at the conference that I am a Write Club finalist. I have managed to introduce myself to many friendly people and even carry on several conversations during which I avoided making an ass of myself. Figuring out how to broach the subject of Write Club and my potential success or loss is just more social aptitude than I can muster.
Apr 23, 2016 – Morning
Today is the day!
My eyes popped open at 5:30 a.m. even though I’m physically and emotionally exhausted. I’m a little concerned how I’m going to react to the final announcement. My husband is only allowed to talk about me getting second place; I’ve forbidden him from discussing an actual win. I don’t want to get my hopes up because I’m scared of bursting into tears or some other foolishness on stage. I want to be gracious and encouraging to Night Songstress as she wins, not blubbering all over myself because I didn’t get something I want so badly.
Apr 23, 2016 – Evening
So … I won.
I won! I WON!! I WON!!
I still can’t quite believe it. I stood up there on stage with DL and Night Songstress, prepared to congratulate her after he said her name and instead he said “The winner is BonsaiBabe!” I couldn’t process it. I heard the clapping and just blinked in shock. In the video a friend recorded, it looks as though I didn’t react at all. The audience only sees me standing there, frozen, while my heart splashes around invisibly in my chest.
For the rest of the afternoon, people stopped to congratulate me in the halls. Some told me which excerpts they had entered in the contest. I don’t remember much of those conversations. I hope I managed to say something coherent and polite through the haze of too much excitement and not enough sleep. I spent several minutes talking with Joy, AKA Night Songstress, who is a perfectly lovely person. I’m glad to count her among my new conference friends.
I’m ready to sleep around the clock. When I wake up, DL will have the official announcement posted on his website! Perhaps then I will believe this is all real.