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Baker’s Dozen: Top 13 Vocal Reads in January 2023

A Look at 13 Stories I Enjoyed from My Vocal Subscription Feed in January 2023

By Megan BakerPublished 4 months ago 18 min read
Baker’s Dozen: Top 13 Vocal Reads in January 2023
Photo by Maddi Bazzocco on Unsplash

Let’s try this again… I suppose it's now or never...

In 2022, I attempted to make such lists as this - for a few months. After that, I was quickly overwhelmed with therapy, a new temp job that took up many hours for many months, and then by the end of the year I just didn’t see the point in picking it back up and was too tired to do so anyway. It’s actually why I’m still making such posts in 2023 for last year. Maybe. It is getting a tad late to cover 2022 favorites, hm? Maybe I should just call it quits for last year's favorites.

Any case, it’s a new year and it’s not too late to introduce readers to my favorite 13 Vocal reads this last month (January 2023)! Since I’ve been interacting less with Vocal groups on Facebook/Meta, all of these are from my own subscription feed. Currently, I am subscribed to 230+ of other writers on the platform, so I’m spoiled for choice with over 1,300 stories from these writers alone so far!

Below, my 13 favorite reads on Vocal in the month of January, 2023, in no particular order. Bear in mind, not all of them may be from 2023 - some may be older stories that I simply enjoyed in January. In fact, there's some writers that I'm subscribed to that I'm not even sure write on the platform anymore... and haven't for years! Moreover, some of these have minor mistakes somewhere/throughout, but I'm not really "judging" for a perfect post - just an entertaining or thoughtful one! In fact, I often go out of my way to choose stories from authors we don't see all the time, and if you're featured in online groups or on the front page often, I'm probably not going to consider putting you on these lists; I usually want to feature other writers who don't get the same level of shine and could use more reads. But that doesn't stop me from enjoying their works!

I hope you'll enjoy them as well!

By Ed Vázquez on Unsplash

1) "The Leaving" by Kevin Rolly

Safe to say, this was an entry into the "Behind the Last Window" challenge, instructing writers to create a dystopian fiction piece wherein the story opens with someone looking out the last window.

"The Leaving" sees the presumed last remnants of humanity facing down starvation and questioning just what actions they will take. A discussion of who will take part in "the Leaving" arises; alternatives are slow starvation and possible cannibalism. Of the options, the Leaving seems the most merciful end, though when the question is brought up in regards to the remaining children... It is no easy decision.

A child survivor, Desiree, can't quite bring herself to take part in the Leaving. And this leaves her as the only survivor to see something unexpected approaching the compound from out the last window once others have taken the Leaving...

It's a dystopian, all right; dark, dingy, and full of end-of-the-world vibes! The dialogue is short, but to the point. It's certainly right up my alley, and I knew as soon as I read it, it would be included in January's list!

By Andrew Stutesman on Unsplash

2) "Exploring Montreal's Hidden Gems: A Guide to Off-the-Beatle Tourist Spots in Canada's Cultural Capital" by Ric francis

Travel much? Then Ric's probably got something for you; consider subscribing to him for more from his wanderings!

In this short article - a breezy 3-minute read covering 5 sightseeing spots for those in a hurry - Ric introduces readers to a few favorite spots in Montreal, Canada. While the church mentioned does little for me (an Atheist) personally, Ric also showcases a couple museums and parks that are much more my thing!

Also, it was great to learn that Montreal is one of the most luggage-friendly visits! It's certainly not something I would think to look up otherwise, and I'm so happy Ric looked into that! Very thoughtful!

By Lucas George Wendt on Unsplash

3) "The Dead Zoo: Stegosaurus" by Brian Switek

Now, this is an old article, and Brian does not appear to write on the platform anymore (or at least not under this profile), but I still wanted to feature it because it's not easy to find articles about these kinds of subjects on the platform and I wish I could find more. Written about 6 years ago, this short article covers my personal favorite (and also my home state of Colorado's) fossil; the stegosaurus.

In it, Brian details the origins of the creature's name, meaning, "roofed lizard" as the plates were initially imagined to lay over the back of the animal much like shingles, rather than the upright position more commonly accepted nowadays.

Honestly, I find T-rex to be so overrated; everything is all about the T-rex when it comes to dino documentaries! So naturally, I had to pick another dinosaur to feature here, so why not pick my spikey favorite? Brian doesn't seem to be as discriminatory, thankfully, so if you are interested in the overrated predator, you're in luck.

Brian also wrote several other such articles on other prehistoric life. I'm not sure if he is still alive and well, but I hope he is and hope he considers picking up where he left off sometime! Prehistoric life = insta-sub! But with his last post around six years ago... Well, I'm not holding my breath for his return. Still, he was one of the first I subscribed to when the option became available, and I do like to revisit his posts every now and again.

By Mike U on Unsplash

4) "Writing with ADHD" by Outrageous Optimism

Welcome back to the platform, Outrageous Optimism! Don't worry, your subscribers noticed your absence and missed you! But also don't worry too much about taking time for yourself. I know how it goes; my PTSD and depression have really started kicking lately too again, and man is it a bitch. I've sat down to write so many times, only to find myself still staring at a blank page hours later, and not for a lack of trying.

In this article, O.O. describes the struggle of writing with ADHD. Those struggles are very real, and extend to many of us with mental health issues. How many times have I considered quitting writing here in the last month alone myself? Moreover, I feel that struggle to write, and it's not just writer's block. It's trouble focusing. It's disassociation. It's wondering why I even bother, with as many hours as I put into writing 2,000-5,000 word short stories for often less than 10 reads each and only pennies to show for it. It's not the same as ADHD, but some of the symptoms overlap with my own struggles. I related to this piece. A little too much, really. It's almost painful, but then again, with depression, most things are.

There's a lot of good lessons to be learned from this piece, especially in the case of treating yourself kindly and with patience, which is something many with mental health issues really struggle with. I'm nearly 50 sessions in with my therapist now, and I still beat myself down pretty much constantly; it's basically what I know. We all try to do better, but it's hard, and it's frustrating, and so many have no idea just how much those struggles we never asked to take on take out of us.

As O.O. stated in their article, it helps to read from others going through similar situations. These struggles are so individual, that it really is nice to realize someone else is going through similar - just because they "get it".

Hang in there, Outrageous Optimism!

By Risen Wang on Unsplash

5) "I Stopped Going to the Gym Because I Attracted Unwanted Attention" by Jade M.

I certainly hope Jade doesn't mind me drawing some more attention to her, but hopefully the attention I direct is more wanted! The title is pretty self-explanatory; Jade was getting too much uncomfortable attention when she went to workout, despite her best efforts not to grab attention.

It is a sad fact and I don't know if it will ever change in my lifetime, but good grief, guys can really ruin a good time for us women. Often times, it's actually when the men try to engage with us; and we aren't typically interested. I've been in too many similar situations to what Jade describes.

What's really heartbreaking to me is the responses she got when management at the gym wouldn't address complaints about unwanted attention from male gym members. They didn't want to make a male patron uncomfortable by talking to him about his behavior; despite that there were multiple women complaining about interactions with him. "Oh we're not going to make a man uncomfortable to make several women feel better and safer", in short. It's shit like that that makes most of us stop going to places we used to love.

In my own life, in my early twenties, I was often approached by an old man - probably in his 60s or 70s - while gambling with my mother at the casinos in Central City and Blackhawk, Colorado. I'd be minding my own, just sitting there playing slots or chatting with my mother, when this old guy - same guy every time - would ditch his wife to come make "compliments" and "remarks". Like, dude, can you just not? Sure, folks get chatty and feeling friendly and that's fine and dandy, but guys just seem to assume if a woman is in proximity, they must wanna chat with men. And yeah, comments like, "if I were forty years younger, I'd ask you out"... uh... just don't, okay? We don't want that shit. It's weird. It's uncomfortable. Just stop. If we wanted your attention, we'd ask for it. If we aren't asking, we don't want it.

There was also another incident when I was 15, with an upper classman that reading this article reminded me of - especially with the dismissal of Jade's concerns and safety. If interested, you can read about that experience - which led to my PTSD and triggers I struggle with now - here. It's not a light read, though, so be warned.

I'm very sorry to read what Jade went through, and moreso that so many of us have, do, and will be subjected to things like this. And that's why this read is here; I feel it has important messages that need to be discussed more. Like why management won't talk to a single patron about undesirable behaviors for the safety and concerns of several others.

By Gemma Evans on Unsplash

6) "The Fascinating World of Cryptozoology: Uncovering the Truth Behind Mythical Creatures" by Aswath Adhithya I S

I love the spooky, mysterious, and the unexplained, so it comes as little surprise that an article about Cryptozoology would catch my eye. My downtime is often filled with stories and documentaries reenacting encounters with beasts of unknown origins. All the cryptids mentioned in this article, I frequently hear about in my YouTube feed.

Aswath goes over a great definition of cryptids for anyone who doesn't quite know what that is, but usually once folks hear names like the Loch Ness Monster (Nessie) and Bigfoot, they tend to get the gist. I especially enjoyed the inclusion of how Cryptozoology, should cryptids become undisputed reality, would challenge the scientific community with a slew of questions regarding conservation and ethics. Often, scientists dispute the existences outright, but are there really that many people pulling pranks and hoaxes?

Either way - real or not - I enjoy hearing about cryptids and contemplating whether or not I think they could exist. Introduce us to more crazy critters, Aswath! I certainly look forward to it!

By Michael Förtsch on Unsplash

7) "8 Gothic Home Decor Items for Oddity Lovers" by K-Leliel

Now, this one I know was a Top Story - it featured about the same time as my own last Top Story in Blush featuring my top 13 perfumes of 2022. But this is the only time I've seen K-Leliel featured, so I don't consider this content creator to be over-hyped like some of the other folks we see getting wins and Top Stories and kudos in online groups ALL the time. Seriously, there's more than 5 writers on the platform...

Admittedly, if I were to make a list of Gothic decor, most of these items listed wouldn't be on my list. However, one of them actually was! My partner and I are finally working to decorate our home after almost 5 years living here (depression and expecting any and all relationships I have to fall apart at any given point kinda put that aspect on hold cause, "why bother") and I actually have item number 7 from this article! They're beautiful, I gotta say! I'm sure I'll have an article or two on our decorating later in the year if I'm still on the platform, and I can't wait to show off my favorite Gothic items in true Baker's Dozen style!

That said, this is a solid list of Gothic decor items. From mirrors, to wall art, to book-ends, there's a little something for any sub-category of Goth or those who enjoy the aesthetic. Obviously, I would have made it a bit longer in both number of items and in writing, but that's just how I roll. There's nothing wrong with short and sweet, and I can see why it was featured!

Well done! Keep it spooky!

By Mika Baumeister on Unsplash

8) "My Top Supplements For This Winter" by Noor

Winter is still in full swing and the cold weather it brings isn't going anywhere for very long (here in Colorado, we still get all four seasons in a day - sometimes twice a day). The sudden, plunging temperatures we've been seeing this year have no doubt thrown many immune systems into states of haywire. Naturally, many of us turn to supplements to boost our systems in such inconsistent temperatures.

In this article, Noor went through a hectic time, and her usual routine of getting the family their winter supplements was postponed, leading to the onset of the dreaded winter cold in her kiddos! She explains the supplements she takes and provides for her family - along with the whys.

I was very shocked by a particular section in Noor's article concerning the amount of iron found in spinach in the 1950s versus today! We expect variation in levels over time, but the difference of iron in spinach then versus now was really surprising and larger than I assumed it would be as I read.

So if you and your family are struggling with the onslaught of a midwinter cold, I highly suggest checking Noor's article out; maybe what works for her will also work for you!

By Monika Kozub on Unsplash

9) "Let’s Bloody Talk About Menstrual Cups" by Oneg In The Arctic

I may not know or understand much of Oneg's struggles with being genderfluid (yet, anyway - I'll have to read more posts), but I damn sure know about struggles with menstruation and I wish this exact article was written when I first started my own journey with menstrual cups! It's much better than the ones I did find back then.

Of course, as Oneg also points out, there's a lot of misinformation and confusion about menstruation. I've personally read enough reddit compilations of "people who don't know how this works". Things like guys thinking women can choose or control when the blood comes out, or menstruation only happens during the full moon, or that it is either enjoyable or those who menstruate exaggerate the pain to get out of doing things... Nonsense like that from folks who never got proper sexual health education. That some (adult) folks who read Oneg's article might just be learning that, no, there is a vagina we bleed from and the separate urethra which we urinate through is... well it just proves that when religious exemptions occur in biology and anatomy class, we wind up with people who just don't understand how bodies in general work, much less the ones that menstruate. And then those people try to tell us what to do with these bodies that they don't understand - and don't care to.

Any case, Oneg's article focuses on the experience of using menstrual cups and answers some questions readers who've never used one might have. I too vouch for the items, though I often just use reusable menstrual pads for a reason that wasn't covered in the article; the cervix. The cervix is the opening to the uterus from the vagina, and it moves around during the cycle. While I can use the cup on the 2nd and 3rd days of bleeding, anything outside of that makes the cup press uncomfortably against my cervix. That being said, it works out - days 2 and 3 of bleeding tend to be the heaviest in my case, so it's prefect to use the reusable pads when the cup might be too much and use the cup on the really heavy days where I don't even notice it.

I'll also point out that if, like me, you have an IUD for birth control, it is important to try to break the "seal" the cup makes before removing it to avoid the cup tugging the strings too much and risking dislodging the IUD. Concerns over whether or not the cup can cause the IUD to dislodge are mixed; some say there's no way, others say it can be a risk between tugging the strings and the suction the cup creates when it makes the seal upon insertion. So I try to break the seal before removing.

Medical gloves work wonders to keep clean in public and to protect the vaginal walls from your fingernails. There's enough pain there without scratching things up, yeah?

And, just for good measure, let's talk about re-insertions. When you wear the cup for hours, it heats up and gets really soft. So when you remove it, clean it, and try to place it again immediately, it can be a little stubborn; it might refuse to "pop" into proper shape. In a public restroom, you might need to wait a minute so it cools enough to lose a little of that pliability. At home, if possible, running the cup under cool water helps cool it immediately. What letting it cool some does is allow the cup to stiffen up again; once it's cool enough, it will "pop" back into place much easier. Otherwise it just kinda molds against the walls without really opening to full shape to catch the blood, and then you'll just have a bloody mess!

Thank you Oneg, for writing about the subject! It's articles and stories like yours that help others make decisions about whether the cup is right for them!

By wendymiao chen on Unsplash

10) "A Date With Merlot" by Rita DeStefano

An older story, this one was likely part of the "Dream Date" challenge which first brought me to in 2021, wherein a first date occurs with a glass of Merlot.

Any case, I read and included this one here out of nostalgia for the challenge. It was one of the first challenges I entered into on Vocal. Can't say my stories did too well, but they were fun to write...

Rita's story is very cute; the hot new-neighbor trope meets a classic case of secondhand embarrassment. You know, where the new neighbor is just so hot and perfect and the protagonist is just... so helplessly clumsy in their presence. Everything that the protagonist fears might happen.... well, it basically happens! This one had me both chuckling and covering my face with that secondhand embarrassment at the same time!

Sweet and loevly as a glass of wine!

By Max Muselmann on Unsplash

11) "Zyneaus Wrath" by Michele Jones

Written for the "Fantasy Prologue" challenge, Michele introduces readers to a theme rich in darkness and magic in this story. Truly, the kind of story I really do enjoy.

In it, a magic-wielding mortal risks all to stave off the wrath of dragons when the King and Queens' home is raided. She's seen it in her vision. Her fate...

Well you'll just have to read for yourself! It's one of my favorite-favorites on this list and I really don't want to spoil it!

By Milad Fakurian on Unsplash

12) "The Time Capsule" by Jaye Ruggiero-Cash

Now, I can't tell if this one was written prior to the 2021 Summer fiction Challenges (a series of 8 themed challenges for 8 weeks) or if it was later updated to accommodate the challenges, but it seems to incorporate quite a few of the challenge requirements!

Starting out a tad tragic, this story soon takes a more lighthearted approach when the protagonist returns to the property they avoided after tragedy struck their family. Drawn back to the property, they locate the time capsule the siblings had all buried years prior.

I particularly enjoyed the ending; very sweet and wholesome, and I thought it was done well.

By Crispin Jones on Unsplash

13) "Madman Muck" by C.D. Hoyle

Closing off this list, we have a fictional horror story for the "Campfire Ghost Story" challenge! It was a wild ride trying to figure out exactly what the danger was - as a really good horror should be!

From the parents' discomfort, to the reluctance of the sister to tell her brother a story she knows she shouldn't, to the question of just what the madman in the title had done... I certainly wasn't bored with this story! The suspense built rather nicely!

Again, I don't want to give too much away - so make sure you go check it out!

Thank you for your time - I hope you've enjoyed my list of favorite reads in January 2023! Please consider checking out some of the stories - and their talented writers!

I, myself, have over 85 stories on Vocal at this time (mostly fiction, but also more of these types of lists and personal stories), so please consider checking more of my work out here!


About the Creator

Megan Baker

A fun spin on her last name, Baker enjoys creating "Baker's Dozen" lists for various topics, several of which have earned Top Story honors on! However, she also writes candidly about her mental health and a LOT of fiction.

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