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Hey there, fellow judges!

You may recall that I’ve been running a flash fiction contest to give away a 50% discount to Scrivener, a very rad writing program. Tonight, I’m more than pleased to announce to you your lovely champion. Drumroll please!

The winner is Em, with a lovely little story titled “The Women’s Studies Major’s Break-Up Story”.

As promised, Em will be receiving a code for 50% off her download of Scrivener, for added ease and organization on her continuing path of literary genius. Also as promised, her story will now be shared with all of you!

P.S.: If you like Em’s story, which I think you will, you can follow Em’s real-life adventures over at her highly entertaining blog, Tales from Hipster College.

Without further ado, I give you: “The Women’s Studies Major’s Break-Up Story”.


     Tuesday night wasn’t a busy night at campus pub, but the Women’s Studies major needed to relieve her heavy heart and her roommate’s friend, the English major’s, poetry course was canceled. You can guess who dragged whom to the student-run restaurant.

     “So,” the Women’s Studies major said to her friend for the evening. “You wanna know about the lovely, radiant, thoughtful, red-head that shall forever be known as ‘that beautiful-piece-of-scum.’”

     “Well, when you put it that way…”

      The Women’s Studies major sighed. “How far back should I go?”

      The English major shrugged. “Well, where did—”

     “Other-Prom.” She continued. “We met at Other-Prom, this dance for LGBTQ teens in Columbus. I was wearing this dressy-vest and black slacks and she was wearing this flow-y, glittery dress that could have slid off her body like cream. And her curly red hair was all over the place. You know what we had in common?”

      “You were both gay and single?”

      “Well, duh,” The Women’s Studies major grinned. “No, we were both wearing red converse sneakers. And we both noticed. And we were both Seniors at our respective high schools. And we both knew how to swing-dance.”

     “I didn’t know you danced!” The English major piped cheerfully.

     “Actually, I didn’t, but I was strong enough to lift her over my head and around my body and what have you. People thought we were the shit: instant favorites. We were joined at the hip all evening.” The Women’s Studies major took a sip of her illegal pint. “At the end of the night, she found a sharp-y and wrote her phone number and Facebook name on the bottom of my shoe. I was so busy flirting that I hardly noticed. And high. I could’ve been high.” The English major giggled. The Women’s Studies major didn’t care. “Three dates later we were ‘official’, or as ‘official’ as the close-minded community we lived in would allow. We graduated from our respective high schools. Attended each other’s grad parties. Went out. Snap chatted. Sexted, but you don’t know that. We were regulars at the sushi place down the street from me. Did you hear that? Regulars at a sushi place. Good God, I really changed for her. I mean, I was nice to people. I was even bubbly. I don’t know what the fuck she did to me, but I was a nice person to be around. I wore those fuck’n converses everywhere; so did she.”

      “So then college?” The English major assumed out aloud.

      “I’m gett’n there!” The Women’s Studies major insisted. “So, then, college. She was going to Cincinnati for statistics and I was going to this lovely hipster college for, what? I didn’t even know. Point is, neither of us wanted to call off the relationship because we thought we were in love. First love, you could say. She was patient with me and our personalities did that whole yin-yang deal; it worked. We said we’d get through college, see each other as often as we could, and then we’d be together again in a quick and easy four years. And so we split off.”

      “Like cells in mitosis,” the English major mused.

     “Quit being poetic.” The women’s-studies major playfully retorted. “At first: constant communication. I mean, all the time. Texting, phone calls, the works. Saw her at Thanksgiving break,” she paused. “For about an hour.” The Women’s Studies major took another sip of her almost drowned pint. “I visited her for spring break Freshman year, and it was like the time and distance wasn’t a problem. We hit it off great. Her friends loved me. She still loved me.”

     “Oh,” the English major sighed.

      “With or without her, I wore those fucking converses around all the fucking time, trying to feel close to her on this campus full of dykes, pardon my French.”


     “Lots of lesbians here, you know, but I didn’t go for any of ’em in the past two years I’ve been here. I’ve been waiting out for my lovely lady, who kept promising me that she’d come. I’m the one who believed her.” She sighed. “For summer break, that prick got an internship in Louisville; I visited her for a weekend. After that, she promised me, promised me, that she’d visit this year.” The Women’s Studies major ordered another pint; fake ID to the rescue. She continued. “You know how many fucking dates I passed up because I thought she’d come see me? I did the solo-lesbian gig at a school where much of the student body is gay. You know how shitty that feels?”

      “I’m sorry,” the English major frowned sympathetically.

     “And, to no one’s surprise but my own, she never came. That lying bitch never called it off either; always kept me hanging. So you know what I did on our ‘two year’ anniversary?” The second pint came.

      “What’d ya do?”

      The Women’s Studies major grinned. “I walked my ass down to the mailroom, barefoot, boxed up those red converse sneakers, and sent them on their way to Cincinnati. I was done. Two years after that fucking prom, I freed myself.” She smiled. “I am a free woman, I’m 20 years old,”

      “Don’t say that too loudly,” the English major advised, eyeing the beer.

     “We gotta live while we’re young! We can’t go wasting our time with people who don’t love us! Two years of my college life are gone, I won’t get ’em back, and now I’m gonna enjoy myself, damnit! Here’s to singlehood!” The Women’s Studies major raised her new pint just as a thin, red-headed woman walked in the door of the pub, carrying a pair of worn, red converse sneakers. The English major first glanced at the red shoes in her grasp. Then the red shoes on the woman’s feet. Then at the Women’s Studies major. The Women’s Studies major dropped her pint.


Hey folks– only ten days left to submit your flash fiction for a shot at 50% off your purchase of Scrivener and publication here on I’ll Be the Judge! Get scribbling!

I’m a winner! And I want to share that experience with one of you!

This month, I participated in Camp NaNoWriMo, an international online writing challenge. I set a goal to write 30,000 words of a novel in the thirty-one days of July. And I did it!


Because I made my goal, I was given a package of special prizes and promos. One of these prizes was a 50% discount on Scrivener, a writing program with lots of tools to help novelists, students, intellectuals, etc. A program which I’ve actually been very interested in this month. And which I purchased full price… yesterday.


But after I finished weeping and kvetching over the missed opportunity to save a few bucks, I realized there was a way I could turn the situation around. Scrivener normally costs $40. It has completely changed my writing experience, and I’m never going back to MS Word.  I want to give my winner’s discount away to a fellow writer who can use it.

Enter: The Flash Fiction Flash Contest.

Here’s how it works: Send me a piece of your own original flash fiction. Flash fiction refers to a complete, self-contained story that is (for the purpose of this contest, at least) 1,000 words or less in length. Your submission should be based one of the three following prompts:

  • Escape from something is symbolized by getting rid of an item

  • Something unexpected becomes powerful

  • Someone saves the day by doing nothing

Click here to submit your piece via Surveymonkey. The reading process will be blind and anonymous.

In keeping with the “flash” theme, I’m going to make this a relatively short time frame. All submissions will be due no later than 11:59 pm on Wednesday, August 20, 2014. So sit down today and whip up that mini-story. Don’t be afraid to make it shorter than 1,000 words; concise style is the goal here. I will announce my decisions on Saturday, September 27.

One submission per person. In addition to the first prize of 50% off your purchase of Scrivener, the top three submissions will be published here on I’ll Be the Judge (unless you request that they not be for whatever reason). They will still be the sole property of the writers, of course. The first prize winner will receive via e-mail my code for 50% off Scrivener, which will need to be used before October 1.

Here is that link to submit once again. One submission per person, please. Don’t hesitate to comment with questions if there are things that are still unclear, or alternately, you can contact me by e-mail at

(Note: SurveyMonkey only allows 100 responses with the subscription I’m using, and I’m only one girl, after all, so at least as of now, this contest will be limited to the first 100 entries.)

Happy writing!

     Last Tuesday, I had an appointment to refresh my haircut, which is based on the style of the character Ramona Flowers from one of my favorite movies, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.

(I haven't yet gone blue. Also no bangs.)

(I haven’t yet gone blue. Also no bangs.)

     In honor of this occasion, I decided to check the original comic book/graphic novel upon which the film was based out from the library. I was excited to try the format because I was largely unfamiliar with it.

     What I’ve been struck with most so far is how word-for-word similar it is to the movie. As a bibliophile accustomed to raging about the liberties taken by film adaptions, I was expecting to find a completely different story. So far, though, that hasn’t been the case. I’ll probably keep reading it, but it will be mainly for the novelty of it, because I’m not getting much more than I already got in terms of plot.

     Considering my obsession with Homestuck, a comic that’s published exclusively online, graphic storytelling seems like something I should probably explore. I also recently attended a session of my teen writing group with a visiting cartoonist and animator, who further intrigued me with the cartoon/graphic novel process.

    However, for now, I’m more interested in the possibility of creating a comic than reading more of them. It seems like a good way to combine two of my primary artistic interests right now, writing and drawing. However, when it comes to my life as a consumer, a part of me prefers to keep my words and pictures separate, in books and movies/TV, respectively. But that’s subject to change.

     Any thoughts on the pros and cons of graphic-assisted storytelling? I’d love to hear them.

DSCF3986                   I was sitting down with chips and raspberry salsa yesterday, enjoying my first day of winter break, when my friend called me to say something very confusing.

                “Ned Vizzini died.”

                There’s really no moment in which it makes sense to hear something like that. And as we both looked around on the news sites and received the sickening news that Ned Vizzini not only died, but committed suicide, neither of us was really sure what to say or how to process the information.

                I’ve never met Ned Vizzini, and I probably couldn’t even identify him in a photo. And yet, knowingly or unknowingly, he has been in my life in a very real way. I own and loved his books Teen Angst? Naaah and Be More Chillthe former of which he published when he was only nineteen, how’s that for an inspiration? Ned’s writing style is so genuine and honest, and his stories have a way of sticking in your memory in subtle ways. No other writer is quite like him, and his fans could probably pick out his work even without his name attached to it.

                And then, of course, there’s It’s Kind of a Funny Story. It’s impossible to read this book and not connect with it and be changed by it. So many people have, and I know that it has meant the world to countless readers, young and old, in this country and beyond. Even more people were reached and moved by the movie based on the novel. It’s Kind of a Funny Story has a special way of giving hope. It is truly a gift to us all.

                His existence has been a quiet presence for me at all times, one of those names that make you perk up and pay attention when you hear it, like an old, well-established friend. Glancing up at his books on my shelf when I’m running around my house always makes me just a little more content, a little more secure.

                I don’t know why Ned Vizzini chose what he did; but his loss is a true tragedy for the genre of young adult fiction. To all those who knew and loved him, you’re in our thoughts, and may you find peace and comfort somehow. And know that Ned will not be forgotten, either by the countless readers and moviegoers who have already benefited from his gift, or by the generations still to come who will discover him anew.


Enjoyability:       smile transpsmile transpsmile transpsmile transpsmile transp gray

Deep Thoughts: brain2brain2brain2brain2brain outline transp 2

Pages: 336    Copyright: 2013

               Park does not want the weird red-headed new girl to sit next to him on the bus. He lives in fear of the day that his popular childhood friends realize he’s no longer one of them and stop leaving him alone. But nobody else will let her sit down, and finally he gives in. If you had told him that day that they would form a tentative friendship during their bus rides, bonding over comic books and mix tapes, he would have scoffed. And if you had told him he would grow to love her…. but Park begins to learn that he and Eleanor are more alike than he ever could have imagined, and also more different. Because Eleanor lives in a world of darkness that he’s never known and can only try to save her from. Set in 1986 Omaha and told from alternating viewpoints, this is a story of love, friendship, and the various definitions and rules of family.

      ***Warning: this review talks in very vague terms about the outcome of this story. If you want to go into Eleanor and Park completely knowledge-free, you may want to stop reading.***

                Can I review a book separately from its ending?

                This book was downright beautiful, poignant, and impeccably written. It’s one of those books that you handle gently because it inspires a sense of reverence. Eleanor and Park climbed out of the pages and breathed, what they had was so believable, so true. The progression of their relationship from its chilly beginning was enthralling to follow.

                And then the climax of the story happened, and it totally stomped on my heart and I cried my eyes out for the rest of the day and augh. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, when I read, I want to be left feeling happy and uplifted. That’s just my personal stance. I can find enough to be depressed about on the front cover of the newspaper every day.

                The thing is, the very very ending of E&P is hopeful, some might even say definitively positive. But it’s so little to grasp onto that it only somewhat helped me.

                My goal of this site is to avoid cold professionalism, so I guess I can’t really give you an ultimate value judgment on Eleanor and Park, I can only describe my experience with it. I’ve decided I’m not sorry I read it. It’s really a beautiful book, and the horrible things you’re probably imagining in the plot based on my dire statements are inaccurate, there’s no apocalypse or anything. It’s just that I wasn’t prepared for how things turned out in the story, and it quite upset me. It’s one of those books that you have to be sure you’re in the right mindset for before you start it.  But if you like books that make you feel something powerful and speak volumes of universal truth, this is definitely the book to choose.

                If you have further questions about the vague and confusing things I’ve said, leave a comment, or if the question involves elaboration on specific plot points, shoot me an e-mail at

Special Awards:

music notes Lyrical award for beautiful prose.

sqee Definitely a squee for romance. So so sweet.

City_of_BonesEnjoyability: smile transpsmile transpsmile transpsmile transp graysmile transp gray

Intelligence: brain2brain2brain outline transp 2brain outline transp 2brain outline transp 2

Pages: 485    Copyright: 2008

             “When fifteen-year-old Clary Fray heads out to the Pandemonium Club in New York City, she hardly expects to witness a murder—much less a murder committed by three teenagers covered with strange tattoos and brandishing bizarre weapons. Then the body disappears into thin air. It’s hard to call the police when the murderers are invisible to everyone else and when there is nothing—not even a smear of blood—to show that a boy has died. Or was he a boy?

This is Clary’s first meeting with the Shadowhunters, warriors dedicated to ridding the earth of demons. It’s also her first encounter with Jace, a Shadowhunter who looks a little like an angel and acts a lot like a jerk. Within twenty-four hours Clary is pulled into Jace’s world with a vengeance, when her mother disappears and Clary herself is attacked by a demon. But why would demons be interested in ordinary mundanes like Clary and her mother? And how did Clary suddenly get the Sight? The Shadowhunters would like to know…”

             I’m having trouble settling on a pro/con opinion for this book. This is partly because it got better near the end, so my fresh, recent positive feelings are conflicting with the less exuberant feelings that I had for the larger part. So I’ll try to just present all of my thoughts.

            The beginning and middle of the book were, for me, pleasant to read, but not earth-shattering. My front-most feeling was that it needed more rigorous editing. There were little rough edges that bothered me— for example, there was too much exposition sometimes, and I felt like characters were hammering backstory too hard and repeating clarifications I already understood. And there was a sense of urgency lacking from the plot movement. The kids were dealing with the fate of the world as we know it, and they just didn’t seem as concerned about it as they should have.

            On the subject of the characters, I think they could have been rounder and richer. I could never entirely forget that they were characters, and not real people. They seemed a little formulaic— Shadowhunter Isabelle the commanding femme fatale, her brother Alec the suspicious traditionalist, Clary’s best friend Simon as the friendzoned good guy, and Jace— I, as a teenage girl, was of course in love with him, but he so dutifully hit literally EVERY single lustworthy-hero trope (tragic back story, tough trustless exterior, smirky sarcasm, etc.) that he came off a smidge cheap, like the literary equivalent of an exotic dancer. I did like Clary. But even her personality could have been brought out more. For instance, there’s a fleeting reference once to her watching anime; tell us more about that!   

             At around the final quarter of the book, the action really picks up, and that’s where I got truly engaged and stopped noticing flaws in the writing, focusing on the actual story. It began to gain momentum and pull me in the way the earlier parts failed to. The pace was good, and the twists were exciting. There’s some weird stuff that was making me lose interest in the story, but I ended up seeking spoilers online and was reassured that it gets resolved, so I do plan to continue with the series. I’ll leave that vague to avoid spoiling anything. If you’ve read the book, you probably know exactly what I’m talking about.

            So, final sum-up— most people I’ve talked to about this series loved it, and I was at worst undecided, and at best on board. Maybe book two will help me solidify my stance, whenever I get the chance to read it. But for the overall reading experience, I think it’s safe to say I was more pro than con.

            By the way, I saw the movie before I read the book, something I almost never do. The book definitely made a lot more sense. There was a lot squeezed into the movie. And they changed a ton of stuff. Go figure. The actors did a really good job, though.

            Opinions? Questions? Leave a comment!