Thursday, August 18, 2011

Winning Entries from, "They say I'm innocent..."

What makes an entry stand out in the writing prompt contests? One of the judges, the very talented Fred Warren, told me this about his selections:

These opening paragraphs needed to hook me in, and for me, that's a two-part process:

1. Get my attention with a vivid image, a powerful shot of emotion, or something surprising.

2. Give me a reason to keep reading. Convince me I'm about to embark on a journey to remember.

Something to keep in mind when you enter this round's contest!

Here's the list of winners:

First Place
Katy McCurdy
Micah Eaton
Alyssa Liljequist

Second Place
Katy McCurdy (yep, again)
Bethany Forster
Esther Wong

Third Place
Katy McCurdy (that's right - she placed first, second, and third)
Micah Eaton (also placed first)
Imogen Elvis

Honorable Mentions
Esther Wong (also placed second)
Mirriam Neal
Emma King
Adria Olson
Holly Ogg
Jenna Blake Morris

Congratulations, everyone!

Below, for your reading pleasure, are the winning entries:

Katy McCurdy, placed 1st, 2nd, and 3rd
They say I'm innocent, but I know better. I’m guilty. Tainted.
Huddled in the corner of my room, lights off, shades drawn, that night eats at my soul. Like an ancient army besieging a crumbling castle, shame and guilt tear me apart inside. A shudder runs down my spine as the memories return, vivid, relentless.

The cold asphalt against my skin. His weight grinding rocks and sticks into my bare back. His rough hands. The overwhelming disgrace…
Sobs shake my chest. Why’d I trust him? Why’d no one warn me against playing with fire? It seemed so harmless then.
Too late, I learned my lesson. Fire burns. Bad.

The judges say: Unique, excellent descriptions, nice style, evocative/This is very powerful, painful, and beautiful. The details are terrific: the narrator’s feeling tainted; the huddling; the night “eats at my soul;” the ancient army and crumbling castle; the vivid relentless memories; the cold asphalt and bare back; it’s all so vivid and harsh and horrible and dark and lovely./Big emotional impact here, and nicely written.

Micah Eaton, placed 1st and 3rd

They say I'm innocent, but I know better.
When Iago, our chief, announces the verdict, I feel a scream welling up within me -
"No, I swear, I stole ten pence!"
Silence. Disbelieving silence.
Iago leans toward me. "Then how did you lose them?"
"I dropped them.”
It’s the best excuse I can come up with - I've never been one for imagination. But I can’t tell the truth.
Some terrible fate awaits me.
Because Iago's Den of Thieves has no use for a failure like me, who comes back empty and innocent on the first day on the job.

The judges say: I liked the way you turned the trigger on its head, giving me a
situation where innocence wasn't a good thing. The premise is amusing
and could go any number of different directions. I'm already wondering
how our hero is going to get himself out of this fix./Nice twist on the word ‘innocent’ in the last sentence, with the narrator coming back “empty and innocent” on the first jay on the job. Nice setting of scene and character, too, in so short an amount of words.

Alyssa Liljequist, placed 1st

They say I’m innocent, but I know better. Once my parents are asleep, I get to work, hacking my way into people’s computers. Oh, I’m not one of those sick people that puts spyware in unsuspecting families’ computers because they have nothing better to do. And I’m not one of those idiots that hacks into Wendy’s drive thru audio system to play bad music and shout insults. I do it for a noble cause. National security. The CIA doesn’t know my real age. They don’t care as long as they get valuable information.
There’s just one problem.
The people I hacked information from? They’re trying to kill me.
The judge says: Great last line! The whole excerpt is nice, with a terrific look at the narrator’s personality and dilemma. The story is short and sweet, with no wasted words, and a good dose of wry humor (particularly in the listing of all the ways the narrator doesn’t hack, and the narrator’s oh-so-casual mention of the ‘one problem’). This is fast and funny and really well done and definitely leaves me interested in reading more.

Bethany Forster, placed 2nd

They say I’m innocent, but I know better. So does Drezian, the one-eyed cat. That was the reason I was climbing Lord Benedict’s wall by moonlight—the reason I fell headfirst into his black courtyard.
Pain cracked through my side. I tried to pull myself to my knees, but glimpsed my arm and left my breakfast near Lord Benedict’s yellow rose bush.
“Who’s there?”
Suddenly I was blinded by the light of a swinging lantern. Towering above me, stood Lord Benedict’s son. My stomach flopped in something that wasn’t quite fear. Then I saw who was beside him, the one-eyed-cat.
The judge says: Leaps quickly into the action, putting the hero in a spot that's
both dangerous and embarrassing--I'm wondering what he's guilty of,
and I've just gotta know what's up with that one-eyed cat.

Esther Wong, placed 2nd

They say I’m innocent, but I know better.
I can still see him, when I close my eyes. I can still see that pleading look in his eyes-- that fear--as the waves swept him out to sea.
They say I couldn’t have saved him. That it’s not my fault. He was too far to reach. They say many things. But I know differently.
I didn’t want to save him. And I could’ve. It wouldn’t have been hard either.
I was his last hope. Just as he was once mine.
Only he did what I didn’t. He saved me, while I failed him.
And he was my brother.
The judge says: Great rhythm, poetic feel

Imogen Elvis, placed 3rd

They say I’m innocent. But I know better. They always say I’m innocent. But that’s Ma and Da for you. Their beautiful blond, well mannered daughter could never have been involved with the gang wars. No Mr Policemen, you have the wrong girl here. Ha, the police believe them too. That’s what being a millionaire does for you.
Well, Ma and Da are totally wrong. See I led the gang wars. I’m still leading them. The police think we’re finished. Stamped out. But we haven’t given up. We won’t give up the fight. Not until they give us what we want: we want our stolen siblings back.

The judge says: The ending hook really caught my attention, intriguing, nice voice


  1. Elvis's and McCurdy's are absolutely amazing. Everyone's were great though. Excellent job and my congrats to the winners!

  2. I liked Alyssa's -- someone with a normal life, but in a situation so different and so not normal!

  3. There's some pretty awesome entries. I'm tossing up whether I like Alyssa's or Esther's entry better.

  4. Wowza, all these prompts are awesome. Alyssa, I really liked your prompt! Totally cool angle I never thought of! :-)

  5. WOW! they are awesome!:)
    If all of those were in a book I would read it!

  6. Wow, I loved Esther's prompt so much! It's weird- the first lines in my book are "I can still see him when I close my eyes." Awesome job!

  7. :D THOSE :D
    :D WERE :D
    :D AWESOME!! :D