Deathmatch 2011 – Round 1

Final Round | Round 6 | Round 5 | Round 4 | Round 3 | Round 2 | Round 1

Daniel Perry vs. Colin Brush

The Expiry Dates By Daniel Perry

My eyes flit from Ron to the corkboard on his wall, just long enough to think What has to go wrong in a man’s life? When does he decide that opening a Giant Tiger store is a good idea?

And he says: “I should hire you.”

My eyes flit back.

“Uh, pardon?”

“Why should I hire you?” he repeats. Tiny beads of sweat form under my shirt. Did I just hear what I wanted to hear? Is that what I wanted to hear?

Read More | Final Votes: 47%

Free Therapy By Colin Brush

‘I’m in therapy, you know,’ is the first thing that comes out of Ellery’s mouth while lying across my bed. Her fingernails are bitten down far enough that they must have been bleeding and she didn’t take off her dirty sneakers before hopping onto my sheets. ‘It really helps. But I don’t want my parents to think they were right so I’m giving my shrink the silent treatment.’

‘I see,’ I say, chewing on a pen cap. There’s a pad of paper on my lap but I have no idea whether or not I’ll use it. Ellery just showed up at my house and told me she needed to talk.

Read More | Final Votes: 53%


Colin Brush – 2011/02/08

Well, I think Daniels speach is something i won’t be able to compete with. but thanks to all readers and voters. And Jessica for rocking the commentary. Good luck with with all your writing daniel.

Jessica Westhead – 2011/02/07

Congratulations on the win for Free Therapy, Colin (I think it’s safe to call it now)!!

Hats off to you and Daniel for a fight well fought. I really enjoyed reading both of your stories, as well as the red-hot debate about them.

Thanks to Broken Pencil for getting so many folks all fired up over short fiction. (And it just so happens that 2011 has officially been declared “YOSS”–for “Year Of the Short Story”. It’s catchy, isn’t it?)

Now…onto the next round. The Deathmatch begins anew!

danielperry – 2011/02/07

Both writers gained exposure and contacts, encouragement and useful critiques. Both were “published” (online, for a week, as part of Death Match). Both had people we didn’t previously know read our work. I still feel that, in a sense, we both win.

BUT, in a more immediate and important sense, you win, Colin! You made the ‘zine! Congratulations, and good luck the rest of the way!
To Broken Pencil:
Death Match was an amazing opportunity and a transformative experience that forced me to put myself out there and prove that I belong. It forced me to walk up to strangers, not just online but also in person, and say “I am a writer, please support me.” And people did. Thank you again for inviting me into the conversation, and for providing a fun and skilled moderator like Jessica to manage it. This has been a great promotional vehicle and an exciting week, and I’m grateful for every moment.
To those who supported “The Expiry Dates”:
Thank you for fighting clean, and for your spirit and dedication. Please also continue reading, commenting and voting on the rest of the Death Match stories. There are EIGHT writers here, all doing everything we can to gain even an inch in this industry.
To all:
If you enjoyed my story (Colin and Colin fans welcome too!), please “Like” my Facebook page, “Daniel Perry Fiction,” and watch for my new story, “Aria di Gelato,” in this spring’s Nashwaak Review.
Thanks again!
-Denial Perry 😉

wrangler68 – 2011/02/07

To wrangler69: 10-4.  Keep writing your fist novel Colin.

bitterpill – 2011/02/07

You asked for details which is fair…

Colin, by ‘losing me’ I mean exactly this:  You’re a skilled writer and you develop the tension of this story well all the way through the lead character acting out and the subsequent consequences.  The premise of ‘therapy’ by peer in a blind leading the blind scenario is interesting, though I’m not fond of teen stories.  In the end however, you start the last scene with a Formal therapist, using the cliché of a ‘couch comfy enough’, ‘fake plants’ and a hand having trouble ‘resting on my shaking knee’.  Cliché ‘after cliché’ after cliché’.  It felt cheap, and the last sentence didn’t redeem it.  The story could have ended with more play on the concept of therapy, yes therapy for the main character, but something more interesting.  You rolled the edge so to speak.

Daniel, by being disappointed in the end I mean I wanted more edge.  Specifically:  rolling on a hood is not an end to itself, the characters must have done more than prance around on skates, and what does rotted meat have to do with pickles (answer this…you might find a good metaphor).  A small town is filled with very funky things bubbling underneath and your story doesn’t have that.  I still found the story a bit sinister but I wanted more in the end.  Driving away is too simple an ending and the character is barely redeeming so we need something to move us as readers.  Perhaps more answers on experience? (I really liked that start btw) Again I envy your skills in dialogue especially and the ease of your narrative. I voted for you.

wrangler69 – 2011/02/07

to wrangler68: wanna make jr wranglers behind the portable with me?

wrangler68 – 2011/02/07

Based on my ample mathematics skill set I would say Colin Brush has secured a victory.    Huzzah!

danielperry – 2011/02/07

(I will check out Angel Riots, and Evasion sounds like a good read. Thanks for the recos!)

danielperry – 2011/02/07

Colin: I liked Lullabies a lot too. Of course I like Portait more than you do – especially the way the voice ages as it goes – but not to worry. Nothing should make you pick up Finnegan’s Wake. Creative or otherwise, it’s full of bad spelling and plot holes. Not much use to an aspiring writer… maybe a poet, but that’s iffy, too.

backinthesaddle: Thank you for coming to play! Rrrrrawr! There’s a lot of good engagement in what you said. As promised, I’m not talking about my own work anymore. It’s a luxury writers only get when people ask. Like everyone’s asked my opponent.

The people love an underdog. The best time to kick a man is when he’s up. NOW this is fun.

Colin Brush – 2011/02/07

To Daniel Perry, some influences. I’ve been recommended to read Vonnegut before. I read the first little bit of Cat’s Cradle, and I was enjoying it, but it got pushed behind some other things I wanted to read. I haven’t yet gone back. Someone gave me a copy of Fight Club, but that’s all the Palahniuk I’ve read. My favourite writers seem to mostly be young, female, and Canadian. The Angel Riots by Ibi Kalsik has been my favourite book for the last couple of years. It’s absolutely wild. We’ve already talked about Emily Shultz. Heather O’Neil’s Lullabies for Little Criminals is another book with a break through narration. Daccia Bloomfield’s Dora Borealis inspired the first short story that I ever wrote and was proud of. Recently I read an interesting book by Sheila Heti called ‘How Should a Person Be’ that I found at a book store and judged by its cover. Earlier this year I read A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, which was great, but it’s a slow read, I wasn’t going to reach for a copy of Finnegan’s Wake right afterwards. I read this witty book called Evasion a couple months ago, it’s by an anonymous author who dumpster dives and sleeps on rooftops and in abandoned buildings. It really makes you want to start living life for free. I think it was originally a zine that kept moving around until some publishers got a hold of it.

backinthesaddle – 2011/02/07

…at the Deathmatch, like a UFC Cagematch, the best time to kick a man…is when he’s down…i come to bury perry, not to praise him…where to start this eulogy…he gave us a good line…”Gimme a pack of Craven A’s too”…i’m glad i lived to finally see someone “chortle” again in a published short story…the pickle drop and the hidden expired cold cuts were honest and refreshing…way better than the things that really go on like stolen chocolate bars and horking big fat greenies into jars of jam and putting them back on the shelf…there was good advice…show up on time, don’t call in sick unless you’re dead and don’t talk about people behind their backs…and if this was a little pedantic, jeff didn’t even follow it, he started coming in late every day…if he was trying to give likeable young Will advice by suggesting he get the hell out of there as fast as he can…it was lost when jeff wordlessly drives away, coming off like a self-absorbed jerk…if only we could shut off a mediocre story with power windows…and SH rocks ; )

Colin Brush – 2011/02/07

So, to respond to mrsdawnaway. I’m surprised to hear that there was some confusion of what ‘it’ is. ‘It’ is spreading the rumours about Ellery. He’s trying to justify his actions before following through with them, which is what he does right afterwards. He never actually blackmails her, so he doesn’t have to justify that. I’m not sure where you got the idea of rape from.

This isn’t a story about growth, there is no gradual personal improvement, it’s a story that involves a breaking point – sinking lower and lower until you realise you need to change, that doesn’t mean he does change.

If you want to hate the main character go ahead. Once the whole thing is done you’re certainly not supposed to like him. So hate away.

Thanks for offering some thoughts that I can respond to.

frank lee – 2011/02/07

LOL @ Palahniuk … Vonnegut


danielperry – 2011/02/07

(Going to shut up after this, but it sounded like I’m not enjoying Uncomfortably Numb. Not true! It’s half-finished because of Death Match! I recommend it!)

danielperry – 2011/02/07

And while I’m digging through past comments, I’ve been wanting to say something about influences etc., as suggested by perfektionist. Not necessarily my own. Influence is really subconscious, sometimes. The Catcher in the Rye question was really interesting. My memory of that novel is really vague, but again, it’s nice to be mentioned in the same breath as such a big-deal book.

Lately, the best books I’ve read were two quite boring ones: American Rust, by Phillip Meyer, and Revolutionary Road, by Richard Yates. The “edgiest” one, as half-finished now as it was a week ago, is Uncomfortably Numb, by Sharon English, set in a place a lot like glorious, shitty, London, Ontario. (Sorry if you’re reading from London. Take a look at the sign outside Speed City Records, this isn’t even my own potshot!)

Colin: What do you like to read? Any influences you’d like to admit? I could pick two out, I think: Palahniuk and maybe… Vonnegut? Discuss?

Jessica Westhead – 2011/02/07

If I am compared to Stephen Harper ONE more time, I’m going to get a complex.

We got started a day late due to some technical glitches, so that’s why we haven’t finished with this round yet. But we’re almost done, and so far, “Free Therapy” is closing in on the win, with a 6.3% lead! (I had to use my calculator for that one, because UNLIKE Stephen Harper, I’m very bad at math.)


danielperry – 2011/02/07

backinthesaddle, its cause aside, your earlier comment coloured the interpretation of the story’s ending. (That’s ok! That’s what readers and critics do!)

The problem was that it misrepresented the ending’s facts, and it was not the first comment to do so. I left the first one alone for a while, but if it starts catching on, something has to be said. Even by the author. These aren’t “shade of grey” things, they’re “black and white.”

At the time it was already obvious that most “reader” comments were based on the message board. Not the stories. I wrote what I wrote to correct this problem… and yet, in so doing, I forgot about this problem. And now, here I am talking about the message board again, instead of the stories.

So: Hate my story all you want. All that really matters is that you read it. Looking back, I appreciate that you did before commenting. It was an improvement on many comments that had come before. I clearly wasn’t ready for the frustration that comes with being trolled – by others, not you! – instead of critiqued. Thank you for reading my work, and for saying something about it.

backinthesaddle – 2011/02/07

…dang…thought i’d be reading a couple new stories this morning…probably a technical glitch has B’n Eff’n P ending the round on a Monday…new Rules in effect, they appear not to identify all the 8 finalists at the outset, possibly to eliminate early conspiracies and enhance the overall fairness…but some things are unlikely to change, frank…one story will be move on and we should see it in the fourth (semifinal) round…and one story will disappear to the dank obscurity it so richly deserves…hopefully perry’s, not only because he callously pounced on my speedreader’s dyslexia, but because his story is boring…i do wonder how he produced that late week surge and whether he can do it again…when he’s G ‘n F’n R, I guess…kudos to the “bad taste patrol” for aligning itself with Canadian Broadcasting standards in censoring graphic non sequitors during the BP PussyMatch IV…hey, if you you squint, doesn’t this pic of JW look a bit like SH ; )

mrsdawnaway – 2011/02/07

At the request of the author, I would like to discuss the ending of “Free Therapy,” and why exactly I felt so lost by it.

First of all, the ending wasn’t the only place where I got lost. In fact, about three quarters of the way through, there is a break (marked by an asterisk) and the next paragraph begins with “There were a million reasons to do it.” I got very lost there. I didn’t know what “it” was — blackmailing her? spreading rumours about her? maybe even raping her?! — and not knowing really bothered me. My partner and I were discussing it at a coffee shop (one with free wi-fi of course) and we found that neither of us knew what was going on at that point in the text. There was a gap at that spot; my partner described it as falling in a hole. We both got lost there, and the ending only made it worse.

The second point I would like to make about the ending of “Free Therapy” is that I got lost because there was absolutely no growth on the main character. As you said, Mr. Brush, the character is entering therapy, seemingly because he has listened to Ellery talk about herself and realized that he needs help and has no one to talk to about his own problems. I got lost, however, with the character’s last line. If indeed he has decided to go to therapy because he knows he’s getting mixed up and has made some bad choices, why does the last line we’re left with indicate that he hasn’t learned a thing?

The third point I would like to make about the story’s ending, and the story in general, is that I hate the main character. No offence, Mr. Brush — evoking a strong response in the reader is what all writing should do, regardless of whether that response is positive or negative. Perhaps you wanted readers to hate the main character? He’s certainly not all that admirable. The ending made me hate him all the more and left such a bad taste in my mouth that I’m writing really long comments about it on a website.

As for the story in general, I felt it was melodramatic. I thought it tried too hard to be “edgy,” and ended up sounding hysterical and immature. Sorry, that’s just how I feel about the text, and that’s why I will continue to vote for Mr. Perry’s submission in lieu of yours, Mr. Brush.

Thanks to everyone for a week of literary discussion and debate!

Colin Brush – 2011/02/07

Like I said earlier – spelling isn’t my forte

People keep commenting on my ending. Say it loses them. I did already explain why I thought it should make sense. I’m just going to cut and paste:

My ending wasn’t a twist out of nowhere (hey I spelled it right that time). There’s a definite lead up. Look at the narrator’s decision making. As the story progresses it gets worse and worse. By the end he’s stalking her, and willing to expose everything she needs kept confident. He’s been given a first hand look at someone venting their feelings and has absolutely no one to do that with himself. In the end he ends up in therapy. It shouldn’t be such a brain scratcher. Someone said they thought it wasn’t a happy ending because Ellery didn’t fall for him. And that was bad? If they got together in the end it would not have been happy, they treat each other like shit the whole way through.

Is there something else though? No one is really offering any detail in their criticism. I’d just kind of like to know.

bitterpill – 2011/02/07

And I’m an independent btw, with perhaps a thing for Katy Perry but I’m not telling….

bitterpill – 2011/02/07

Second reading and a vote for Daniel Perry.  While I still think the story doesn’t end with enough punch (no gas peddle pun intended), the character does visibly slouch into small town crazy with credibility.  Colin Brush’s ending just loses me.  I am however, very interested in the ‘fist’ novel?

danielperry – 2011/02/07

What an exciting last day! Still so glad to be here!

Saturday, I said the authors should shut up about their own work… not that everyone should! Is bitterpill the only person still reading? (By the way: if I get to pick, I’d rather be Degrassi!)

Come on, readers! Take a side! Sway the undecideds! Prove this battle’s about more than Colin and I measuring our… ahem… Facebook lists!

Thanks again for reading, and discussing, and voting. Looking forward to a great homestretch!

emoran – 2011/02/07

it’s neck and neck!  exciting stuff!

frank lee – 2011/02/07

How does the next round work?

Does the winner of this week have to compete again right away, or are both stories removed and the winner reposted later for a semi-final deathmatch?

Jessica Westhead – 2011/02/06



Only one day (and a few hours) left to cast your votes and decide the literary fate of these two tales!

Or, Daniel and Colin, you could always just hypnotize each other like these dudes (it’s different, but effective):





halpen – 2011/02/06

The top 4 will be published in the next issue of Broken Pencil (spring).

bitterpill – 2011/02/06

Both writers are absolutely excellent but I am very disappointed in the stories.  I felt like I was watching Katy Perry crash an episode of Degrassi High.  Here’s to a bit more edge in round 2?

Jessica Westhead – 2011/02/05

For sure, there’ve been a few “blank” comments tossed out here and there–but overall, I for one am quite delighted that this Deathmatch hasn’t deteriorated into an icky, mud-slinging, Jello-wrestling popularity contest. People are getting passionate about the stories rather than their authors, which is the best way to go about this thing, in my humble opinion. And while sometimes it can be hard to separate the writer from the words, it’s that necessary objectivity that makes for the most insightful commentary. And we’ve got insight aplenty here so far. Happy sigh.

danielperry – 2011/02/05

Please don’t interpret from my silence that I’m ignoring Colin’s edge question. I’m not. Overall, I’m rather tongue-tied about it.

Before I address it, I want to again say thanks to those who are reading and thinking about the work, and commenting on/evaluating what’s actually inside. Both stories are published now, and therefore, we both “deserve” to win, and as far as I’m concerned, we both already have.

I’ve told everyone why I think my work is better, and Colin’s told everyone why he thinks his is better. That’s how we play Death Match. But in defending our work – and unfortunately, where required, our persons – we may have already said too much here. This venue is peripheral: good for playful sparring and thinking out loud, adequate for trolling, and occasionally, a source of enlightenment.

The good questions live in the reader’s mind, and in the dialogue that follows. The answers, if anywhere, exist in the stories. It’s like D.H Lawrence said: “Never trust the teller. Trust the tale.” Now that our work is out there – published, to be read by strangers! Awesome! – it doesn’t belong to us writers anymore. We have to shut up, and let the work speak for itself. The readers determine what it means, and if it’s valuable or not.

Death Match is fun because it makes me reader of Colin’s work, and Colin a reader of mine.

I get the sense from the dialogue that some readers prefer Colin’s consideration of his characters’ psychology, and that others prefer some quality of honesty/relatability in my story.

I also get the sense that Colin and I know approximately the same number of people.

But to get back to “edge.” All I’ve really come up with to add to the dialogue is a question – for all, as always. Is there a difference between critical abstracts like “edge,” and, say, “grit?” Could we ever say that one is inherently better than the other?

As our moderator said, people like what they like. I’ll say again, may the “best” work win.

ProfessorMarlowe – 2011/02/05


“There have been so many blank arguments that I’ve had to struggle through reading it’s pissing me off.”  I beleive that this was my point.  Good catch.

It isn’t difficult to tell which comments are written by either of the authors’ personal acquaintances, is it?

Still, I prefer the comments that talk about the stories to those that simply lob insults at one or the other of the authors – the terms “pretentious” and “ass” come to mind.  These terms really don’t seem to have much to do with the stories themselves, do they?


I thought your comment was funny – and I agree that one vote per reader would provide a more adequate representation.


Have fun, kids.


Over and out.

Girdle – 2011/02/05

For some reason people are having trouble understanding why edgy in free therapy is good. There wasn’t a comparison about pubic hair and being slammed down on the car, there was a comparison between pubic hair and catholic school girls. The catholic school girl fetish has been told in a billion stories, and the pubic hair speaks to the fact that the attraction to ellery has no emotional backing. And yes professorM what we just heard from skyprince is a ‘my boyfriend is better than your boyfriend’ argument, maybe with a couple bigger words. If you don’t like the ending, say why. If you think the expiry dates is more mature, THEN QUOTE THE DAMN STORY. There have been so many blank arguments that I’ve had to struggle through reading it’s pissing me off.

ProfessorMarlowe – 2011/02/05



Now THAT is a well-reasoned explanation for voting for a particular story – much better than some of the “My boyfriend is better than your boyfriend!  You boyfriend is an ASS!” sort of sentiments contained in some of the other posts.


And I, for one, agree with what you have to say.

skyprince – 2011/02/05

Edgy, for the sake of being edgy. Sounds a little avant garde, does it not? You know, fucked up, for the sake of being fucked up? To me, stellar writing is not about who has the edgier piece; sure, the guy seeing Elerys pubes may be more *edgy* than being slammed on the hood of a car, but is that the measure of a better story? Absolutely not. I said before, I do not like the way Free Therapy ends; I think I understand what Colin was going for, the whole mind fuck angle, but that did not speak to me. Have you ever heard the old saying, it is not the destination that matters, but the journey itself? (I apologize, my keyboard is messed up, and my quotations are not working properly). Expiry Dates is incredible because it is more about Jeffs journey than his destination. On the outside, one could be fooled into thinking that the story is simple, but it deals with some very complex themes. The biggest one being, the transition between what is old and what is new. The juxtaposition of the stale old past, and a brighter, new future, and how both of these overlap. The young boy who is on the brink of becoming a young man. To me, that is something I can really sink my teeth into. There is quite a bit more to Expiry Dates than meets the eye, and that is why I love it. That is also why I belive Daniel Perry deserves to win this round.

ProfessorMarlowe – 2011/02/04

Waxford –
Writers with unemployed freinds???????  Really, now!

Jessica Westhead – 2011/02/04

One of my favourite lines from “The Expiry Dates”: Moments later she re-enters pushing a cart, nerves calmed, her shopping bag nestled where a baby could have sat.

One of my favourite lines from “Free Therapy”: Ellery told me that Casey’s been waking her up in the middle of the night with phone calls to complain about how bored he is with school and his home and his youth.

Both of these excerpts show me that their authors have their own unique style and way of seeing and interpreting the world, which is what sets the good writers apart from the lazy ones.

Now let’s see if we can budge those stubbornly equal percentages so one of these fine gentlemen will WIN!!

Waxford – 2011/02/04

Wow, online voting for these things is so dumb (especially 1 vote for hour, it should be one vote per IP address). I liked both stories, but I thought Free Therapy had more punch and wasn’t as slow to start.  But what is my vote gonna do.  I guess its a battle of who has the most unemployed friends that love to sit at their computer.

Waxford – 2011/02/04

Wow, online voting for these things is so dumb (especially 1 vote for hour, it should be one vote per IP address). I liked both stories, but I thought Free Therapy had more punch and wasn’t as slow to start.  But what is my vote gonna do.  I guess its a battle of who has the most unemployed friends that love to sit at their computer.

brokenfan – 2011/02/04

Nattie- I didn\’t say Mr. Brush actually is a hipster elitist, just that his comments read that way.

David Griffin Brown – 2011/02/04

I enjoyed both these stories and had trouble deciding who to vote for.

Expiry Dates

Some people said this topic is cliche, and perhaps the theme is, but I felt the narrative was authentic… too real to be cliche.  My favourite part: Marlene Simmons.

I think this piece would be stronger if it were a bit shorter, tighter.  I’ll admit I did have a where-is-this-going moment, when it felt like I was reading the summary of a novel, rather than a short story.

Free Therapy

I enjoyed the more tangible conflict in Colin’s piece, and ultimately that earned it my vote.  I also appreciated the description and observations — kept it visual.

The end didn’t feel right, however.  If I was writing this, which of course I’m not, I would scrap the psychologist session and conclude with a last interaction between the narrator and Ellery.

and now for something completely different…

This is my first Deathmatch… great fun so far.  But I’m curious what people think…. Why does the voting reset every hour?  How does vote spamming contribute to the integrity of this contest?

nattie – 2011/02/04

Brokenfan, of course he deliberately tried to make it edgy, what\’s wrong with that? Read his post again. I\’m pretty sure he just proved that those shocking comments DO have meaning behind them. You think he\’s just hipster, i think you\’re just pretentious. You just want to rub off as mature.

ProfessorMarlowe – 2011/02/04

Dear Democratic Readers,

Those of you who have actually read the two short stories in question will note that, while both are well-written, and both have compelling elements, one story relies more on “shock value”, while the other is more deliberately plotted and maturely written, and hence has more “staying power”.

I will leave it to you, dear literate voter, to decide which story is which.  I will also leave it to you, dear reader, to decide which type of story ultimately has more value.

brokenfan – 2011/02/04

Colin, you constantly circle around this idea that your story is \’edgy\’ and therefore better. But in your last post, it seems that you are implying you deliberately tried to make it so. You believe that a piece of art needs to shock its audience to be effective. I would suggest that your deliberate attempt to be \’edgy\’ (whatever that means) is anything but. True artists can find beauty and truth in the mundane, which includes “shitty rural living”, as you so eloquently put it. Your comments read like those of a hipster elitist.

Tomatteo – 2011/02/04

I’ve been thinking more about The Expiry Dates – its actually quite complex.  The initial imagery of placing old stock in front of the new makes you question what is new and what is old within and without this community.  The Giant Tiger, while new to the community, already has the air of being from a previous era. New staff are indoctrinated by the older staff in the Giant Tiger and yet one of the newest staff (Will) becomes the Grocery Manager at the end – but is this really a new phenomenon within this store or the community?  There are many new intimate relationships that are formed over the course of the story, and yet, we begin to understand that this is just part of the regular behavior of the individuals involved (just like Marlene Simmons – you get the sense that she’s always first, it’s not really news). Even in the end you are left to wonder whether Jeff is really racing off to something new and if, when he gets there, he’ll get relegated to the back shelf (a familiar experience, I think, for many rural immigrants to larger cities).

Oddly, this fits in with some of the dialogue on this forum.  Are the stories new? Can they be new? Will what’s oldest supersede the one that is newest? Finally, what do we really mean by old and new?  One can reference literature that was created before the generation of these two authors as being old – or one can claim that writing in the vein of the current generation is old in that it doesn’t push the boundaries of what is presently being published.

Colin Brush – 2011/02/04

Daniel, i want to comment on the \’edgy\’ content that you pointed out. The one where your story has characters being slammed onto the hood of cars and mine has girls tearing posters off of walls. I can\’t help but feel your comments downplay my story. I see you\’re ignoring the perfectionist mother who\’s vain enough to encourage health risks on her daughter, the girl trying to forget the person she flashed when she was too young to understand sex, the carnal attraction to a girl\’s pubic hair as opposed to the overdone catholic school girl fantasy, the life of an abusive house – one that involves a pre-pubescent girl feeling a dry tampon much earlier than she should ever have to…Instead of your technique of throwing in a couple wild events to keep the reader intested, my story is uncomfortable and implicitly edgy. Again, i\’ll call yours basic. It doesn\’t have the same effect as mine, where i bring the reader towards something they\’re not used to thinking about.

Jessica Westhead – 2011/02/04

And now it is time for all of us…to DANCE!


Jessica Westhead – 2011/02/04

Ultimately, it all comes down to preference, right? I don’t know anything about art, or music, or wine, but I can say, “I like this,” or “I don’t like that.” And anyone is free to challenge my opinion, but in the end, I like what I like, and I may or may not be able to explain why.


I know a bit about writing, and a bit about beer, so I can say a writer did this well or that not so well. Or, “I like this one because of the hoppiness.” But as long as a story is written with skill, as both of these tales clearly were, or a batch of beer is brewed with loving care (it’s too early in the day for beer now, right?), the deciding factor in the end is, “Did I like this?” And in the case of Deathmatch, “Did I like this one better than that one?” And holy crap, look how close the votes still are!


The ideal book review is one that can pinpoint what a writer intended to do, and then show where the writer succeeded and/or failed in accomplishing that. But there’s also that gut reaction we get when we read a piece of writing. And I love to see folks getting into a froth (mmm) over their opinions on these stories, especially since most readers here (including the writers themselves) are quite brilliant at articulating why they do or do not like “The Expiry Dates” and “Free Therapy.”

mrsdawnaway – 2011/02/04

I’m not sure who I disagree with more, nattie or Mr. Rosenbaum. To begin, I can’t tell how much CanLit (never mind the can’tlit for a moment) either of them have read. To describe what is being published in Canada as “cold, dull, pastoral stuff” is to get it wrong on almost every level (except maybe the “cold” part — on a literal level of course).

Classic Canadian literature, as Mr. Brush so aptly pointed out, does have much to do with little towns and the natural environment of this country, but to call them pastoral, as Mr. Perry so aptly pointed out, is simply a display of ignorance. If Mr. Rosenbaum has studied recent Canadian literature, yes, he would find “Little girls growing up in small towns or old women dying in them” but clearly he missed the point, just as some commenters missed the point of “The Expiry Dates.”

Mr. Perry is following in the tradition of the short stories of Alice Munro, Alistair MacLeod and Sinclair Ross, among others, which probably also seem boring to the commenters who have argued the same about “The Expiry Dates.” But these are important tales about life — Canadian life. These are stories about growing up and/or old in stagnant environments, where sometimes there isn’t swashbuckling adventure and page-turning excitement. Sometimes, the only hope in these stories is to “get the hell out,” as Mr. Perry puts it.

I’m not arguing, though, that “Free Therapy” is terrible or anything like that, so please don’t interpret my words that way. Both these authors are very skilled, albeit in different ways. Personally, I think Mr. Perry deserves to win this round as his story is more poignant and has more depth. (Also, I really DON’T know what happens at the end of “Free Therapy” — that influenced my voting choice immensely.)

“Boring” is not necessarily a bad thing. One other commenter made note of how this round may come down to ‘mass appeal’ versus ‘specific appeal,’ and I think that person was correct. Me, I’m a student of literature (jeff clark, my degree is also in “Arts and Crafts,” and there isn’t anything you can say to make me regret choosing that as a major). As such, I read a lot of “boring” stuff.

The trick is being able to recognize that “not boring” doesn’t always mean “great literature.”

danielperry – 2011/02/04

(Ok, Leacock, not quite a novel. But I read it last month for the first time, and it still holds up. One hundred years in 2012, not bad.)

danielperry – 2011/02/04

Two fair shots, Colin. It shouldn’t shock you that I concede them both. This setting has been used before! And Emily Schultz’s work is better than mine! But, apples to apples, those are novels. I really liked Black Coffee Night. (Sorry to the authors I named for dragging them into this conversation. It was merely as an example, and I don’t pretend to speak for you or even know you personally, but I’m sure you’re very nice and could teach me a thing or two about my first published short story.)

Regardless, it’s great to be talking about the work again. My point was merely that, latent in nattie’s comment, was a poorly-thought-out and mean-spirited devaluation of work with rural settings. The setting, in and of itself, shouldn’t pre-clude any magazine, anywhere, from publishing anything. If the work’s good, it’s good.

And regarding “edge.” Your story was exactly what I expected to be up against, with angsty therapy and poster-tearing where my story puts drunk driving, and road racing, and fighting, and hood-of-the-car sex. There’s a lot of what you do out there, and there’s a lot of what I do out there. May the best story win. Ruff, ruff.

Perfektionist – 2011/02/04

I would like to commend both writers.  I have enjoyed reading your debate and discussion almost as much as the stories.  It is the literary equivilant of a film festival world premiere, with the director there to talk about the work.

Please continue highlighting influences, stylistic endeavours, and sought after themes.  Every time they are highlighted, it is like the stories are read again for the first time.


Colin Brush – 2011/02/04

Look at some of the Canadian classics. As for me and my house, sunshine sketches of a little town, ruffing it in the bush – these are not stories about lush meadows either, but they are our literary tradition. They’re all about shitty rural living. They’re good but a little boring.

I’ve never ready any Derek McCormack, but I assume you were talking about Emily Shultz’s Joyland.  It’s a whole story paralleling eighties video games. It had girls learning about their periods, kids drinking for the first time, kids having sex for the first time, someone gets cum rubbed in their mouth, at the end someone even dies. That story has a lot more edge and a lot more creativity than expiry dates. You deserve to be here, but I admit, this wasn’t the type of story I was expecting to be placed up against.

danielperry – 2011/02/04

Good morning, Death Match fans! Are you having fun yet? I still am. Thank you, again, to Broken Pencil, for letting me play. I guess you can interpret your mandate all by your little ol’ selves, eh? I’m glad to be in a passionate short story throwdown. You’ve given my work a lift, and legitimacy, which I really dig. And, more people have read my work than ever before.

This is still a short story contest. Not a flame war. Out of all this overnight fun, I will pick out one of few words that provides a way into my story, as opposed to the many discussing whether or not it has a right to be here.


A tradition that emerges from ancient Greek poetry, about shepherds and country folk. Literature (classically, poetry) that describes an ideal rural life.

In The Expiry Dates, there are no newborn lambs or golden glowing wheat fields or prairie sunsets. The main set piece is a discount department store. The two main natural environments are a “bush party”, (not, say, a lush forest), and a roadside near a desloate farmer’s field, as opposed to a green meadow. Most of the action takes place in stores or cars – constructed environments – and the natural worlds appear only at night, when they’re dormant. Not regenerative, as is the tradition in the pastoral narrative.

My favourite works about less-than-ideal rural lives are Alice Munro’s early books, and The Last Picture Show. A non-traditional marriage of the two is how I pitched my collection – a novella in stories, nailed it again perfektionist – at Broken Pencil’s 1-2 Punch at Canzine this fall, where I learned of Tony Burgess. He writes about small towns and is definitely not pastoral. And what of friends to Broken Pencil like Derek McCormack or Emily Schultz, who have set stories and novels over the last 10-15 years in these repressive, conservative, dying-out places? Also, not “pastoral”.

Why? Because pastoral is boring. I am as glad as you that a pastoral story has not been selected for Death Match. Maybe more glad.

Clearly the “obvious message” I was earlier derided for didn’t get through to some readers, but only because they didn’t want to hear it anyway. Many small towns are ominous, and boring, and decaying. Less than ideal. Not pastoral. In The Expiry Dates, the final regenerative act is not in the pastoral tradition of settling down and raising sheep. It’s getting the hell out of there.

the skilled clef jark – 2011/02/04

Nattie– its not about who ‘deserves’ to win by your interpretation of the mandate. Get your head in the game.

Unskilled Jeff Clark- I am the personification of all of your repressed desires. I know that you secretly wish you could write, or be half as creative as either of these writers. I want you to stop bothering people; it’s no good for either of us.

nattie – 2011/02/03

because there were too many “cold, dull, pastoral” submissions. can you think of another explanation after what you just read?

begezus – 2011/02/03

So nattie, what you’re saying is Daniel’s story is too mainstream to be published on broken pencil? The feeling of familiarity and relatability his supporters seem to be expressing means it’s not wacky enough for the underground / alternative nature of this site?  Then why did they select his story to be voted on? Or are you accusing Broken Pencil of selling out?

“This is a competition to be published in Broken Pencil and Daniel is everything that Broken Pencil does NOT want to be” – pretty sure the link to this page is  Why would they choose to even give Daniel the shot if they didn’t think he deserved to be on the site? And to leave it to the public to vote?  If he wins, will they say “actually, we don’t want his type on this site.”

I doubt it.  If they do, then this whole thing is a sham.  And I don’t think you’re accusing them of that, are you?

nattie – 2011/02/03

Here is why Colin deserves to win this.

This is the description of Broken Pencil from the BP anthology can’tlit. It’s an excerpt from the intro by Richard Rosenbaum:

‘Canadians are producing some of the best, most creative, provocative, boundary pushing fiction in the world. The problem is that not enough of it’s getting published… You may have noticed that the writing we tend to prize most highly here in Our Home and Native Land – is the cold, dull, pastoral stuff. Little girls growing up in small towns or old women dying in them…

The writing that’s polished and pitch-perfect, but says almost nothing. It feels weighty but it’s only dense; it seems serious, but it’s really just baroque…

The Broken Pencil mandate was (and is) to bring the submerged cultural urge into Canada’s collective consciousness, to help lift it up and lend it legitimacy. And this included promoting writing – from writers within Canada and outside it whom nobody here had ever heard of, or wouldn’t touch – that was too weird or uncomfortable for the (all-too) serious literary journals, too visceral and punk rock for the likes of Margarets and their ilk… to show emerging writers that there is a place and need for that sharp, offensive, urban fiction, for that all around weird shit, in the otherwise bland and soulless field of the Canadian literary scene.’

Free Therapy is this sharp, weird and uncomfortable that Richards Rosenbaum is talking about.

This is a competition to be published in Broken Pencil and Daniel is everything that Broken Pencil does NOT want to be.

begezus – 2011/02/03

I vote that only people who read the stories get to vote.

Seriously the unskilled jeff clark, you’re going to turn this into a “what gives you the right” argument?

So you’ve ‘participated’ in many deathmatches… does that give you some sort of tenure or seniority in the forums that means you can insult the writers without explaining yourself?  Or are you truly so unskilled as to feel that “I would like to see you apply yourself a bit more for next year” is enough for you to be taken seriously in a forum for a creative writing contest?

Also, you get that defending your right to have your say also defends Tomatteo’s right to have his say, right?   You are absolutely entitled to have your say.  But please, use more than just insults.  I think it is in fact you who doesn’t understand constructive critisism; if you did perhaps you might have included something constructive in your posts.  I don’t think Daniel will learn from “do better” or  “was filled with many phrases and words that made in indigestible”  Get a little more specific if you feel your opinion is important actually want him to learn something instead of just acting like another internet troll.  Differing opinions are definitely part of what makes art and expression in general worthwhile, but when you don’t back yourself up other than “I’ve got internet clout because I’ve been on this website longer than you” I think you should be prepared to have your comments questioned.

Now, back to what we’re actually (supposed to be) here for:

I thought both stories were really well done.  There were elements to both that I liked, and elements that I did not.  In the end I feel that I relate more to Daniel’s work, since I also grew up in a small town and had a similar experience. It gets my vote also because I didn’t like Colin’s ending.  I think it’s because the narrator doesn’t get that he did the wrong thing, or that he would even think in the first place that betraying Ellery’s trust would make her want to be with him.  It turned me off of the character and in the end, the story.  I’m not saying that the story is bad for that reason, I don’t have to like it for it be well done.  I just liked Daniel’s more, so it gets my vote.


the unskilled jeff clark – 2011/02/03

Also, I know I am not alone in my opinion on Expiry Dates because after looking through the comments, I noticed the words boring and slow peppered through numerous comments aimed at Daniel Perry’s work.  On the contrary, no one can really agree with what is wrong with Free Therapy.

Unfortunately if you cannot keep your reader interested in what you have written, then you have failed (there is no other way of putting it).

the unskilled jeff clark – 2011/02/03

Tomatteo, what gives you the right to say that my assertions are wrong.  I have taken part in countless deathmatches on the broken pencil and not once have i been as disappointed as I was when I came across this battle.  I was not even able to finish Daniel Perry’s story Expiry Dates was very slow to start and was filled with many phrases and words that made in indigestible.  I guess I could agree that Daniel owes only to himself, but within that, he owes it to us so that he can win.  I was truly disappointed and thought I would express my feelings with a few comments.  But people found my comments too negative and that i was all wrong.  These comments may seem somewhat negative yes, but when I am upset, I express myself, and if everyone had the exact same views and interpretations then there wouldn’t be such thing as art would there?

Tomatteo – 2011/02/03

Jessica – you’re hilarious!

Jessica Westhead – 2011/02/03

Erm…that wasn’t a sort of bizarre signal by me that we’re wrapping up, or anything–I’ve just always wanted to quote Guns ‘n’ Roses in an online forum, is all. Let the Deathmatch Discourse continue!

Jessica Westhead – 2011/02/03

Thank you, Tomatteo! And thanks to Daniel and Colin and everyone for a great debate about two tales that are STILL very closely dividing the votes.


Now, since we’re on the subject of music, I’m about to sully my sensitive reputation a wee bit. I give you a Deathmatch rallying cry, courtesy of G ‘n’ Effin’ R, for B ‘n’ Effin’ P:


You be rippin’ off the f***in’ kids

While they be payin’ their hard-earned money (er, or not, since it’s free)

To read the stories

They want to know about

Printin’ lies, startin’ controversy–

You wanna antagonize your readers??

Antagonize them, motherf***er.

Get in the ring, motherf***er!

And the Deathmatch contestants will kick the Internet’s bitchy little ass…


Tomatteo – 2011/02/03

…and great work, Jessica, on bringing great insight and sensitive moderation to this forum.

Tomatteo – 2011/02/03

Kudos to both Daniel and Colin for having been selected for this deathmatch.  Having been tipped off by one of the writers (I won’t say who) I originally came to this contest only to provide unconditional support, but having read both stories I have to say I found both intriguing on different terms.  I enjoyed the ominous symbolism of The Expiry Dates – the idea that what is new about all of us is buried under what is old.  And I enjoyed the exploration of the human desire to express one’s self, often to those that are complete strangers, in Free Therapy. Honestly, I can’t say which is better.

I can relate to the sentiment of brokenfan (especially having participated in similar contests) – except to say that I sincerely doubt that our modern age is really any different than any other time in history.  Art and artists have always been denigrated (if ever noticed), and yet somehow, some great works and some great artists rise to prominence – but are still often denigrated.  Unlike the assertions of the unskilled jeff clark, artists don’t owe anything to anyone except themselves.  Their art form is a way of exploring ideas and emotions and it can be helpful to share this with others, as the true value of the art can often be found in the dialogue that comes out of it. In this way, it is great to have a forum like this to have others appreciate or denigrate one’s art – after all, the artist experience is so much like that of the therapy sessions in Free Therapy, where you don’t know whether your openness will lead to greater self esteem and happiness or further shame and mistrust.

petee5 – 2011/02/03

Wow Daniel, sometimes you’re a bit of a shmoozer.

danielperry – 2011/02/03

Hey Stormalongs, huge compliment I never said thank you for (publically). Check out these guys on MySpace, they rock. Catfish is right, we aren\’t voting on songs, but if we were, they\’d have my support. It\’s great to be understood, engaged, and/or reinterpreted. Cool track, lads. Perfektionist, who do you work for, and what do they pay you? I\’ll double it. Thanks for the steady support. And finally, a song for all of you diligently voting for and big-upping The Expiry Dates. No, I didn\’t inspire this one. You did. Crank that intro and what they hey. Punch the gas.

catfish – 2011/02/03

Cool idea stormalongs, but we\’re voting on the stories here, not a for a good song, right?

TheStormalongs – 2011/02/03

Thanks Jessica- really glad you enjoyed it! It was a moment of genuine inspiration, and we hope others will enjoy the artistic symbiosis. It’s always great to experience a piece of work that speaks to you the way Daniel\’s story spoke to us. \’Expiry Dates\’ (the song)

brokenfan – 2011/02/03

I can say from experience that Web voting contests are never about who has the best work. They are decided by who can write the better macro with which to stuff the ballot box. This kind of thing usually degrades artists and their art, but sure helps drive that web traffic! Both stories have merit, so it\’s going to come down to who can stuff more. There is no honour in the information age. Deathmatch, indeed. That being said, at least the authors are engaged in a gentlemanly debate while the robots fight it out. 😉

Colin Brush – 2011/02/03

I find it interesting reading the comparison of the ‘the expiry dates’ to catcher in the rye. I’m not saying it’s an unfair call. But Holden Caulfield is one of the most captivating narrators I‘ve ever read. I find that book is so gripping in part because his witty comments and opinions can be so interesting. It’s that type of style that I try to emulate – to have a narrator that can catch you off guard and pull you in.

Perfektionist – 2011/02/03

I find it interesting that people are finding Expiry Dates to be what I will generally term as “flat”.  I reread the story, and my reflection on it is that it reads more excerpts from a novel as opposed to a short story.

I don’t see anything wrong with telling a tale and highlighting the details of an environment.  Fiction needn’t all be about page-turning excitement and intrigue.  If I think back to my readings of Catcher and On the Road, they didn’t grip you but rather forced you to reflect on the characters mindsets.  I find the same thing here.  Where Catcher captures New York in the 50s, Expiry addresses small town Ontario in the 90s (albeit in a condensed way of course).  Free Therapy reminds me more of a commercial piece with clear and frequent hooks.

The more I compare these “similar” stories, the more I realize how different they are.  In the end, this may come down to a comparison of wide appeal vs. specific appeal.

As for the banter, I see nothing wrong with either side.  “Battle” and “fight” have been used, but in the end it is two Canadian artists trumpeting their work.  I’m happy to have two people so passionate about literature.  To call someone a pompous ass is a stretch based on some slim internet postings.  I would imagine both of these are good people, and I would raise my glass with either writer.

Colin Brush – 2011/02/03

I’m not sure I’d call it fun, I’ve been nothing but stressed out for the last couple days. But it has been a good fight. Time to let today happen.

Jessica Westhead – 2011/02/03

The mark of a good piece of writing is that it gets people talking. The worst possible fate for a story is for readers not to care about it one way or another. But here we’ve got two contenders neck-and-neck, and a kick-ass heated debate–about friggin’ STORIES! Dammit, there is hope for the world.

eye_wonder – 2011/02/03


That transformation everyone says the character in the expiry dates goes through doesn’t really happen. He just doesn’t care about anything from start to finish. He doesn’t care about his job from the start or his girlfriend. The only reason he leaves the store is because he’s only getting four hours a week even though everyone else is already gone. They have to practically shove him out the door. When his friend asks for advice he doesn’t give any from his new change self he just drives off like the apathetic jerk he was at the beginning of the story. If things change after high school this guy is the last to know. You’re main character doesn’t even get your obvious message.

eye_wonder – 2011/02/03

It’s one thing to have a bias… and a completely different thing to be a cocky ass as TravestyTay pointed out.

danielperry – 2011/02/03

Great spar last night, Colin. Two authors exchanging blows from radically different viewpoints, stylistic, technical, archetypal and more, openly and respectfully and even playfully. Despite the most basic thematic similarities – Eastern Canadian white kids not getting laid, as someone put it below – we\’re never going to agree. That makes things almost… fun! Looking forward to another great day of battle.

danielperry – 2011/02/03

A Death Match author biased? Toward his own story? Gee. What an outrage!

TravestyTay – 2011/02/02

oops! it is suppose to say that Colin isn’t a pompous ass like Daniel is.

I just wanted to clear that up, knowing that Daniel jumps on every little mistake people make. Which is ridiculous since everyone makes mistakes.

TravestyTay – 2011/02/02


I couldn’t even get through Daniel’s story, it was way too boring, too descriptive and too confusing. I didn’t even get half way through; I started to zone out with the introduction of all the blonde and Portuguese girls. There are way to many characters to keep track off. I was disappointed.

On the other hand, I really enjoyed Colin’s story. It was very compelling and easy to understand being a student once! It was a very interesting twist on the “cliché high school story” where the guy gets the girl. And I loved the irony at the end of the story as he himself then needed to go to therapy.

I think this is an easy decision, and easy to see that Colin’s “Free Therapy is superior to the other (I don’t even remember what it is called). Not to mention that Colin a pompous ass that Daniel is with his comments, Daniel isn’t very sportsmanlike and can’t take criticism. As well as being way to cocky saying that yours going to win and is the better work. Your opinion is a little biased.

In the end, Colin’s story is memorable and is clearly going to win this competition.

danielperry – 2011/02/02

…or who has more Facebook friends. Either way, this is a great matchup BP, loving the battle! Thanks again, new friends and old, for all the great things said about \”The Expiry Dates,\” and see you tomorrow. I\’m sleeping tonight.

Colin Brush – 2011/02/02

haha, well, we’ll let the voters decide which works better.

danielperry – 2011/02/02

No hurt feelings here – glad to be talking about the actual works now. How they work. Why they work. And of course, why one – mine – works better.

Colin Brush – 2011/02/02

First of all, I’d just like to clear up my original comment. It wasn’t really intended to be a back hand. The contest was 7 hours in and the comment board was silent. I read your story and gave, as generally as I could, my first impression – hoped to get things started. Wasn’t saying I didn’t like your story, maybe saying it was well written wasn’t enough to express that. But I really had no plans to over think it.

My ending wasn’t a twist out of nowhere (hey I spelled it right that time). There’s a definite lead up. Look at the narrator’s decision making. As the story progresses it gets worse and worse. By the end he’s stalking her, and willing to expose everything she needs kept confident. He’s been given a first hand look at someone venting their feelings and has absolutely no one to do that with himself. In the end he ends up in therapy. It shouldn’t be such a brain scratcher. Someone said they thought it wasn’t a happy ending because Ellery didn’t fall for him. And that was bad? If they got together in the end it would not have been happy, they treat each other like shit the whole way through.

You shouldn’t look at my story as a bunch of witty quips. As quick as some of the comments are they actually say something. Let them distract you. I know I don’t leave much room in free therapy for your mind to wander, which I imagined was a good thing, but that doesn’t mean you can’t take your eyes off for a minute.

What I’m torn about with ‘the expiry dates’ is how long it takes to be told. On one hand you don’t want to cut the filler out because the mundane is what this kid’s life is about, on the other there are long dry periods in between the interesting events. Reading it involves a sense of pushing on. The more I read it the more I enjoyed it, but I had to prep myself to want to read it every time.

I’ll have to take from Nattie’s comments, but my story is more imaginative than yours. Yours was a relatable tale, I could link it with my high school life, but it was a little generic. You didn’t take your creativity much past what’s to be expected.

danielperry – 2011/02/02

Here’s why I love this contest, so far. In less than 24 hours, my work’s been compared to Bukowski and Hemingway on one hand (wow! thanks!), and American Pie 2, on the other (wow… thanks…). I guess I’ll just shoot up the middle, and call that “general appeal.” But finally, as promised, here’s a more complete answer to my opponent. “Free Therapy” spills its guts like the patient on the couch. Makes sense. That’s what it’s about. It’s not as bad of a story as I implied, Colin – glib for glib, friendo – but stylistically, for my taste, the sentences are too full, and they distract me from the story itself. It’s the ending that bugs me most: for it to deliver, the story has to develop an expectation. If entering therapy is where you choose to end, then your reader should already know if it will take or not. Your choice pays off as a jokey twist ending, but it’s abortive, and it renders moot most of what came before. By comparison, “The Expiry Dates” is lean and economical. Makes sense. It’s about rot, and loss. But it’s also about redemption. The protagonist learns from his experience. He grows, and he acts, and when he floors the gas pedal you know: this is behind him. He can start fresh from where he is now. And that’s why my story’s better. Oh, and about the whole “boring” thing. I wholeheartedly agree that The Rock was not boring. But then, neither was The Last Picture Show. Even if it was in black and white. Less can be more. And if you’re still in doubt, read my story again. You’ll see.

Logann88 – 2011/02/02

Your words ” It’s like a romantic comedy; if the guy doesn’t get the girl the movie is usually shit”. Are you sure that you read your whole post?

catfish – 2011/02/02

Interesting response skyprince. I have to agree with Logann88 though…Free Therapy doesn’t leave me hanging at all, and although I don’t find the ending unresolved in the least I do really appreciate that kind of finish. On the other hand, I personally can’t agree with your opinion that “there’s a little bit of Jeff in all of us.” Thus far, I don’t find myself relating to him, and even if you can it doesn’t guarantee that all the readers can. I also haven’t enjoyed the “creative way” in which Daniel unfolds the story; however, each reader to their own opinion. Perhaps we just value different types of creativity…

skyprince – 2011/02/02

Firstly Logan88, who are you to tell me that I am ‘absolutely wrong’ about Free Therapy leaving me hanging? It did leave me hanging; that is how I felt when the story ended, so for you to tell me that it is wrong for me to feel a certain way about something is ridiculous. How do I contradict myself again? I never said Free Therapy was not good because it didn’t have a storybook ending; I said I felt it left me hanging, and the whole bit about Free Therapy being just as relatable as Expiry Dates because it has an ending that doesn’t fit a mold, is totally a stretch. Free Therapy was lacking because I felt it was unresolved. Expiry Dates on the other hand is brilliant, because there’s a little bit of Jeff in all of us. It’s a real story, and it is told in a creative way. This is about creative writing, isn’t it? I suggest, Logan88, that you actually read a post fully before posting a non-sense reply where you merely twist words around to suit a particular argument that you are trying to make.

Logann88 – 2011/02/02

skyprince, you are absolutely wrong about the ending of Free Therapy leaving you hanging. The relationship upon which the story is based is over, therefore so is the story. On the other hand the ending of Expiry Dates feels as if the writer grew tired of writing it and so just abruptly ended it. Also you mentioned your preference for Expiry Dates because it easy for the reader to relate  their own life to it, yet you contradict yourself by knocking Free Therapy for not having a storybook ending where the guy gets the girl. I feel far more people could relate to a story that doesn’t have that storybook, rom-com ending than one that does making Free Therapy just as relatable as Expiry Dates

Drain Bamaged – 2011/02/02

Amen to that.

Jessica Westhead – 2011/02/02

I’m getting all tingly from this discussion. Best thing about Deathmatch is that we have two stories here that do both have merit, but they’re different enough to provoke big differences of opinion. We have some seriously well-thought-out uppercuts and jabs whistling through the air. We’ve all probably heard that there are no new stories to be told–when you boil them down, there are only a few basic plots out there. It’s all in how you tell it. And you’re never going to please every reader. But in this arena, at least, all you need is the biggest slice of Deathmatch Pie. Ohhh yeah.

eye_wonder – 2011/02/02

Sorry skyprince but I disagree.  It’s the movie where the guy gets the girl that are the sappy ones.  Its the ones where the guy doesn’t get the girl that have more say.  And in terms of leaving you hanging, it doesn’t.  You know exactly what happens at the end.

skyprince – 2011/02/02

What brings a competition like this from good to great, is simply the level of engagement among the audience, and I think the various commentaries below certainly speak to that. The same can be said of the two stories. Free Therapy is a good story; yes, it makes you want to keep reading; unfortunately, it does leave you hanging at the end and frankly, I had hoped to leave feeling more satisfied. I lost my proverbial boner, so to speak. It’s similar to a romantic comedy; if the guy doesn’t get the girl, the movie is usually shit. What makes a story great in my opinion, is its ability to allow the reader to find a piece of themselves in that story. Expiry Dates does that, and it does it incredibly well. As much as Expiry Dates is an account of Jeff’s journey from adolescence towards bigger and better things, it took me back to a similar time in my life, when I left home for University, only to come back that nothing had changed, except me. The story is deep, and it is original, because each person reading has a different version of it for themselves. Put simply, it speaks to the reader. Some have said it is ‘boring’, but I can only encourage you to read it again, and find the elements within it that speak to you. It has been said before, and it will be said again; may the better story win; Daniel Perry’s. Again, you sir, have the floor.

GPatt06 – 2011/02/02

Someone down there called Free Therapy American Pie 12. In American Pie 2 the group returns from university for the summer and realizes that their town has changed without them. They’re not in high school anymore. They’ve changed also, and they no longer belong in their town anymore. They rent a cottage for the summer because they have to leave. Yes it is a cliché. And yes Expiry Dates is a story of American pie standards.

nattie – 2011/02/02

I feel right now that people are leaning towards expiry dates being the mature story and free therapy being a little more poppy. But free therapy is a lot more imaginative. Some people called it cliché. Maybe the bit about a ‘clicky’ high school is, but that because its high school, the patient/doctor premise itself is something brand new. If you read it more closely there are themes of trust abuse, the consequences of maltreatment and high expectations from people you’ve no business to rely on. Sure it’s a love story, but who’s ever seen a love story go down that way.

I actually felt Expiry Dates was the more cliché. More about high school relationships. It was a little softer and mature, maybe more realistic, but does it have to be? A transformation away from my high school self is something I’ve experienced in my life, and it’s basic enough that I don’t need someone to translate those feelings for me.

I lean towards Free Therapy because, despite the fact that Expiry Dates is a little more realistic, I like the adventure and the craze of Free Therapy.

catfish – 2011/02/02

EdRyan, I think you should read the comments below. A few of think that this is certainly a valid way to feel.

EdRyan – 2011/02/02

I never suggested your story was childish, not at all.
I found that your initial comment that claims  the competitor’s story to be  “boring” is in somewhat poor taste. That’s all.


Jessica Westhead – 2011/02/02

Holy crap, Stormalongs, I just listened to your lovely atmospheric Expiry Dates-inspired song. Loved it!

Perfektionist – 2011/02/02

Whoa whoa – simmer down now.

I think many people are focusing too much on the minutia and not on the big picture in these two compilations.  Wares vs wears?  Nowhere vs no where?  I personally don’t feel like spelling and grammar (albeit important in any published work) dictate whether the underlying message of a story is valid.  Would “War and Peace” have had any different message if it was called “Whore and Piece” (which would incidentally be a suitable title for it’s adult version available at many fine establishments on Hollywood Blvd.)

I clearly jest, but if we stand back and look at the two and ask ourselves the simple question of each – what is the message?

In Free Therapy, I see a message of perhaps some teen unrest and social click battling.  I see some hormones and some effort to write about rage as a room is torn about.  In my humble opinion, however, it comes up a bit short.  These theme’s aren’t new, and the final note of “If I never said a word I could have blackmailed Ellery into loving me” is a pretty vapid way to leave your reader.

In Expiry Dates, the message is less obvious.  It seems to be one of stagnation and despair.   There is some reference to hormonal impulses, but they appear to be less intrinsic to the story, and instead is merely a stepping stone to the characters growth.  Given the format, a long period of time elapses and each “journal entry” seems to have a more mature feel to it.   In the beginning the character is interested in bush parties and catholic school girls.  By the end, he has shunned off these temptations and simply wants out of town – punching the GAS in his car.  His friends and former colleagues remain behind, and he moves on in life.

Expiry Dates may feel difficult to engage in, but therein lies the point.  This person’s whole life is difficult to engage in – and he knows it.  If his life was enthralling and interesting throughout, the message of the story would haven’t been conveyable.

Once again, hats off to both.  To Colin – keep writing.  You have a clear and impactful style.  I am sure you have experimented with other unique themes, and I would encourage you to continue doing to.  To Daniel – do the same.  Imho, you have an understanding of themes and premises, and I would imagine you work stands well in a longer novel or novelette format.


Colin Brush – 2011/02/02

EdRyan, I’m afraid you still aren’t saying that much. If it came across as childish, that because the characters kind of are. That’s what I was going for. but the rest of your comment is still a little vague to make out.

TheStormalongs – 2011/02/02

Daniel Perry’s story inspired us. Yesterday we wrote and recorded a piece of music entitled ‘Expiry Dates’- it is an audio companion to Daniel’s story. It is meant to evoke the feelings of claustrophobic melancholy and longing embodied by his story.

We’ve put it up for free download here:

Listen, read, and enjoy. Thanks for the inspiration Dan!


The Stormalongs

PS. Good luck to all the writers! Direct comparison of art is difficult.

EdRyan – 2011/02/01

Meant “wares off.”
In your story, not comments.

Colin Brush – 2011/02/01

EdRyan I think you’re going to have to explain yourself a bit better. I fail to see the childish.

And “ware down”?  When did I write that? Are you sure you’re looking at the right comments?

danielperry – 2011/02/01

Gas and glass are different things. Gas makes a combustion engine, such as that in a car, run, and is injected into such an engine by a pedal, commonly shortened to… gas. Another nugget waiting for those who actually read the work. Thank you to all for the positive feedback and the quality discussion. Good night. See you tomorrow. I look forward to Day 2.

backinthesaddle – 2011/02/01

…a child’s crayon drawing is art too…if Perry’s intention was to foist four and a half minutes of ennui on the reader as we agonize when this “boring” piece of crap will end…then bravo…he succeeded…his supporting commenters, although sparce in number, write better than he does…supposedly he’s separated and elevated himself because he’s been accepted in school in London…whatever “hope” was there seems negated when he punches the window (out of frustration?)…still haven’t figured out why he does that…because somebody else is driving off with the bimbo?…it wasn’t clear to me he had designs on her…i’d have to read it again, but i’m dreading that…

EdRyan – 2011/02/01

I have no stake in this, but the comments initiated by Colin are childish and ridiculous. Especially for a contest like this…for a publication that is really everything but.
“Ware down”? Really?

wrangler69 – 2011/02/01

i think it was distasteful for the commenter below to disparage michael bay films.  The Rock was Connery’s best work since Zardoz.

Drain Bamaged – 2011/02/01

In addition to Natties comment, someone who has an appreciation for intelligent and artistic films, would not likely get “excited” by the work of Micheal Bay. Excitement to a person of refined taste is artistic flare, inventiveness, and intriguing insights to name a few. I sincerely doubt that the readers of Broken Pencil are attracted to literary “fluff”, and are perceptive enough to understand when something is dry. Sorry Marcinmoka, but boring is boring.

marcinmoka – 2011/02/01

True. But it still is art.

nattie – 2011/02/01

that’s very true. however, you wouldn’t call a boring work of art a good work of art either (no offence Daniel). I think that it’s a valid opinion that I find Expiry Date difficult to get through because it doesn’t hold my attention.

Marcinmoka – 2011/02/01

“It’s boring” – wow, such insightful analysis and criticism.

Cheers to Dan for the clever insights, excellent characters and overall originality.

On a side note,  just because a Michael Bay film is “exciting” doesn’t make it good.

The same should be applied to all other art mediums.


Jessica Westhead – 2011/02/01

As much as I love a good literary brawl, I also love that (so far, anyway) the thoughtful comments outnumber the sucker-punch ones. I’m only a lowly commentator here and definitely not a judge–that’s your job. But for what it’s worth, I think The Expiry Dates is funny, well-layered, and has some great original observations. It does feel rushed towards the end, with less focus on scene and too much summary. I also had a hard time keeping track of so many different characters as the story went on. Overall though, I dug it. Free Therapy is definitely faster-paced and more of a “page-turner”, er, “scroll-downer,” and it’s easier to stay interested in the story with only a few main characters to get to know. But it feels like it ends too quickly, and too easily, and does dip into the high-school cliches. Ultimately, though, I think it redeems itself with great dialogue and some good creepiness. Well matched, indeed.

Perfektionist – 2011/02/01

I think both of these stories have merit – although I do confess to preferring Expiry Dates.  Free Therapy had an interesting premise, but the story lacked the depth I would be looking for.  The stuck-up princess with the pink locker?  The drunken jock boyfriend?  The prissy gossip queens around school?  These all sound like characters from Glee, as opposed to a real relatable school environment.  In the end, the story feels somewhat like the angst musings of a horny teenager chasing tail, and that is it.  A story about a guy trying to get laid.  American Pie 12, or thereabout.

Expiry dates was more substantial for me, because it seemed to have an underlying message about a person who is outgrowing their surroundings, and watching others stagnate while they develop.  At the same time, there is a general sense of agnotcism for the world which occurs in rural and small towns.  The protagonist goes from applicant, to veteran, and then to alumni all in a short span.  That is a lot of growing to ram into a couple of thousand words.

I would generally say hats off to both.  Style and form are great in both, but taking a step back I think Expiry Dates had a bit more substance.

the unskilled jeff clark – 2011/02/01

You’re so wrong, if anything, Daniel owes me a better story.

brokenfan – 2011/02/01

Like a suburban Bukowski, or a post-modern Ernest Hemingway, Daniel Perry reveals to us the hidden interior world of the frustrated North American. His characters flit in and out with names like highway signs, each pointing to a specific emotional landmark and the wispy memories that continue to haunt us all. Collective memory is not a metaphysical theory; it is a very real sense that Daniel uses to carve out his fragmented, dream-like narratives. It is the silent beast that stalks his prose, down to the last grainy detail. If I may be so bold as to address you directly: Mr. Perry, your story cuts frighteningly close to home for myself, and I suspect many others of our age bracket and background. The other speakers are silent. You have the floor, sir.

Rents – 2011/02/01

So Jeff, “coming down hard on him” means dishing out childish comments? Read your posts again, if anything you owe him an apology.
Also, these high standards of yours. How do they apply to the piece? Do you actually care to present constructive criticism?

the unskilled jeff clark – 2011/02/01

To be honest I don’t know Colin or you, I love to read the stories presented each year in this deathmatch because they typically reward skilled Canadian writers that deserve recognition.  What I don’t like to see is people that have such a great writing resume like yourself) that present a piece of work that is absolutely sub par to my standards.  If you have been around the Broken pencil you would know by now that I come down hard on those who do not perform, and you my friend are the first of 2011.  If you can take it, it will help you as a writer, if not, it will only hurt you.  Colin, your work is very well written for someone as understated as yourself, I would love to see more of your works in the future! Skilled young writers like yourself are rare these days. Best of luck kid!

Jessica Westhead – 2011/02/01

Ooh, things are heating up nicely! It’s like when you do that trick at a restaurant where you go to pee and when you come back, your meal is waiting for you. I step away from Deathmatch for a few hours to get my hair cut and buy some beer, and when I come back, the mayhem is in full swing.

danielperry – 2011/02/01

Nice to meet you, too, Colin. The opening salvos have indeed been fired, and I\’m looking forward to putting our varying styles – but oddly similar stories, thanks newspapers7 et al – head to head. Based on their merit. I\’m off to the ultimate in high brow tonight, the leafs game, but I\’ll engage your fair-handed criticism later, and throw you back some of my own. May the best work win. (Mine.)

7newspapers – 2011/02/01

…yeah, i’m going to say “boring” was the first word that comes to mind when reading “Expiry Dates”…work in a store is generally boring, no surprise it’s not much of an interesting setting for a story…too many characters and none i really care about…dramatic finish…ohhh, punching a window…i’ll give “Free Therapy” the nod, it’s got a pychological edge to it…and more skillful development of sexual tension…i like how Broken Pencil matches stories with similar themes…in this case, guys from eastern Canada not getting laid ; )

Colin Brush – 2011/02/01

There’s the man in hiding. Personally Daniel, I doubt anyone really believes a percentage lead in the single digits is enough to ask you to throw in the towel, so I wouldn’t go too off my rocker. But I must say that if you’ve read the story over three times and only found one spelling mistake, I’m pretty proud of myself. Spelling’s not really my forte. But I’d like to think this competition isn’t really about that. I mean, its creative writing; we can spell shit however the hell we waaaaaaant. But let’s get to the comments about not knowing what’s going on. I’m having trouble believing you’re clueless about my story, if you’ve got a more detailed insight let me have it. Your story is kind of just about obvious teen life. Some girlfriends get jealous about their boyfriends, kids don’t care about their jobs. But I doesn’t really go anywhere too substantial.

Rents – 2011/02/01

Unskilled Jeff Clark, you said “I guess you can’t take constructive criticism.”


Where’s the constructive criticism in anything you said? You’ve merely made back-handed remarks downplaying Dan Perry’s piece as if he had no right to even be here. You also blatantly expressed your sychophantic leanings for Colin Brush’s work.


It’s a shame to see such underhanded commentary ruin what should have been a fun match.

rmayr – 2011/02/01

I honestly found it difficult to choose between both stories. Both stories were quite well written and  they had very engaging and interesting characters. But I think I would have to go with the story, Expiry Date. I personally found the descion to seprate the story into diary entry- like fragments to be highly effective. It allowed each moment to be seperated into a fragment and because the story was constructed this way it added an additional layer of relatabilty and made me, as a reader feel like I really got to know the main character and understand all his motives and choices and as a result of this, it added an interesting, additional layer to the story. I rarely see this format in works of fiction.

the unskilled jeff clark – 2011/02/01

I guess you can’t take constructive criticism.  I would really like to see you do well. but i just don’t think this your year son.  You should probably consider going back to western to get another Bachelor of Arts and Crafts.

danielperry – 2011/02/01

And it begins. Sorry Wrangler69. I was talking to Jeff Clark, clearly.

danielperry – 2011/02/01

“Congratulations. You\’ve adequately baited me. From Mr. Brush\’s initial backhand across the mouth, it took mere hours for the high road to evaporate. I\’m stunned. Looks like this truly is a deathmatch. Let\’s stay on the topic of re-reading for the moment. As my story\’s set in the middle of it, I can tell Mr. Brush first-hand that \”nowhere\” is one word. Many of you \”praising\” Mr. Brush might have noticed this, had you read his work even once, and not simply stuffed the ballot box on command. To say that I didn\’t re-read my work is to suggest that Broken Pencil doesn\’t know good fiction when they see it… which, Wrangler69, would really bring down the value of your friend winning this contest, wouldn\’t it? And further to the point of re-reading: I\’ve re-read ‘Free Therapy’ three times so far, and I still don\’t know wtf is going on. (Hey Nattie, did I spell ‘wtf’ right?) Instead of a puzzle filled with ‘creative digressions,’ or whatever they are, how about a story next time, Colin?”

the unskilled jeff clark – 2011/02/01

Wow, Daniel Perry Probably should have re-read his story before sending it in, it really had no potential to begin with.  This deathmatch is not even fair.  Colin Brush Has crafted nothing less than a masterpiece, I would be surprised if he encounters any opposition in the future.  Well Done Old Chap!

PS: Daniel, I would like to see you apply yourself a bit more for next year. Thanks

eye_wonder – 2011/02/01

looks like Daniel Perry might have an expiry date

wrangler69 – 2011/02/01

i have to agree with nattie’s assessment- colin brush’s was more engaging and enjoyable, i couldn’t quite finish the other one.

nattie – 2011/02/01

Free Therapy is so witty. It’s really grabbing from the start, and it’s so well written that you don’t get bored of it by the end. But, I found Expirey Dates a little more difficult to get into. I wanted to read them both so I pushed through it, but I didn’t enjoy it very much…

sweetlime – 2011/02/01

Expiry Dates offers an intimte look into the lives of small-town Ontario youth on the brink of what is to be. Witty writing with characters that came to life all wrapped up in a unique way – I thoroughly enjoyed it. Kudos.

Nattie – 2011/02/01

haha – me too!

eye_wonder – 2011/02/01

i like colin’s beard

snodino – 2011/02/01

These stories seem to be well-matched, I enjoyed reading both of them. Free Therapy has an interesting premise, but I think my favorite is the Expiry Dates because of the funny and believable characters which the author did a good job of bringing to life.

catfish – 2011/02/01

ya – free therapy made me want to read more, all the little thoughts are so creative. i didn’t find the other that interesting though. it doesn’t really seem to be going anywhere.

Jessica Westhead – 2011/02/01

About Free Therapy: The dialogue grabbed me right away. I love this line: “Last year I put on a little weight and my mom told me that throwing up is okay if you only do it sometimes.”

Jessica Westhead – 2011/02/01

About The Expiry Dates: I have to say up front that any mention of a Giant Tiger makes me very happy. I have a discount-store bias, since I was once a cashier at Woolco.

eye_wonder – 2011/02/01

free therapy is fantastic!

it is so well written and gripping.  I am very intrigued.

Colin Brush – 2011/02/01

after first read – The Expiry Dates is well written, but kind of boring.

Broken Pencil – 2011/01/31

Welcome to Deathmatch IV, a day late and nursing a mean hangover. We’ve upgraded the commenting and voting system again in an attempt to make them both more secure and more pleasant to use. An unfortunate side effect is that we’ve had to wipe all existing usernames. Kindly register again to comment. That should put you in a suitably unpleasant mood to contribute to the conversation. Voting is based on IP address checking, so you don’t need to login for that anymore.

As you can see, we’ll be having a single comment thread per round this year, instead of a separate thread for each story. We hope it will encourage more mingling of opposing supporters, so get in there and mingle, damn it.

We’ll also have special guest commenters again this year. More information on those shortly.

Good luck to the competitors. Let combat commence.