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Winner's Circle: Prompted #4

your attention, please

By Randy BakerPublished 29 days ago 4 min read
Top Story - May 2024


I proclaim Prompted #4 as a success!

If you don't know or don't recall the particulars of this challenge, get up to speed HERE.

With 35+ entries, the inaugural challenge remains the high water mark for these little contests, but Prompted #4 packed quite a punch. In the end, there were 20 entries for the May Challenge.

The participation level makes Prompted #4 a success, in my book, but the quality was even more impressive than the quantity. Yep. I would say this was the hardest challenge yet, in terms of judging.

I felt a real quandary when I got down to the final brackets. A challenge like this could easily be considered a game, but these writers were not playing around. They were really writing for this thing.

When all the stories were read and reread and the dust had settled, I did something I had previously not wanted to do - I granted a tie for one of the slots. I haven't done that before and I don't know that I'll do it again, but it seemed the only fair way out of this one.

To all of you who submitted an entry, I bid you many thanks. There were some excellent stories and some of you pulled out the stops more than I had expected. There is a lot of talent on Vocal, but I guess we already knew that.


Before I get to the part you are all waiting for, I want to diverge a bit from my normal "Winner's Circle" format. With 4 Randy Baker's Writers Challenges in the books, a few things have become apparent. Obviously, the depth of talent is one of those things, but I want to address some other items that may benefit you in future challenges.

Read the instructions and then [this is the most important part], follow the instructions. I know I'm not giving away a fortune in prizes, but running these challenges does take time and energy on my part. I take the reading and the decision-making seriously. Please take your craft seriously. If you can not follow the instructions, you will not win a prize.

I check the word count, so you should, too. If the instructions say 1,000 to 3,000 words, that's a rule, not a suggestion. And here's the thing. I'm not an algorithm, I'm a person. If your story falls short of the required word count, you can fluff it up with an extended editorial note, or side topics, but I'm not counting the fluff. Your Vocal word count may tell you it's 1,000 words, but I'm only counting the words that are part of the actual story/poem. Yes, I go through and old-school copy and paste the entries into a word processing program to get an accurate word count of the story - minus any fluff.

If the instructions say that your work should be "based on", or "inspired by", some other piece of literature, including that piece of literature - verbatim - in your entry will not apply toward your word count. Prizes go to those who write, not to those who copy and paste.

Lastly, I would recommend everyone proofread and correct their stories. If you have someone else who can proofread for you, great, but if not, do it yourself. At the very least, run spellcheck. This has not been a huge problem, but it can be detracting at times. Being a good storyteller and being a good writer, are related, but not synonymous. Don't let a good story flop for lack of writing know-how. Writing is a craft that consists of more than a good story idea. Keep that in mind, because I do when I'm judging the entries.

Now, back to the fun...


From the 20 challenge entries, these emerged triumphant:

1st Place: $50.00 - "Fear River" by Mackenzie Davis

2nd Place: $30.00 - "Where the Sidewalk Ends" by Heather Zieffle

3rd Place (tied): $20.00 - "Volley and Thunder" by Matthew Fromm

3rd Place (tied): $20.00 - "Symphony of Madness" by Lamar Wiggins

Congratulations to you all!


My thanks, again, to all who participated, to those who spread the word, and to those who read and encourage us all along the way.

Once again, congrats to the winners of Prompted #4!

Prompted #5 has already been concocted and will be released almost immediately. Stay tuned and spread the word! The June Writer's Challenge will be returning to poetry mode.

If you enjoy these challenges and want to see them continue, please let me know in the comments. A "like" and subscribe would be appreciated, as well!


Please, please, please, take the time to read these stories...not just the winners. Everyone put a lot of work into these stories and, frankly, your "winners" may not be the ones I picked. The competition was tough and some great stories missed the reward slots.

You can find all of the entries HERE in the original challenge announcement. Just scroll down and find 1 or 10 to read.

Thank you!

Writing ExercisePromptsChallenge

About the Creator

Randy Baker

Poet, author, essayist.

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Comments (21)

  • Shirley Belk26 days ago

    Congratulations to all!!!

  • Andy Potts28 days ago

    Congratulations, guys. Great work. Pity I ran out of time before getting my own attempt together, but I fear it would barely have made a ripple in this company.

  • Wooohooooo congratulations Mackenzie, Heather, Matthew and Lamar! 🎉💖🎊🎉💖🎊

  • Shaun Walters29 days ago

    Congrats to the winners! Apparently I didn’t read the instructions well enough because I did not get mine in on time 🤪

  • Anna 29 days ago

    Back to say congrats to the host on Top Story! :)

  • Andrea Corwin 29 days ago

    Randy, Love your commentary/instructions!! It should go without saying - so why do you have to? 🤔🤔🤔 Anyhooo… congratulations to the winners👏👏 and to the Creator ❣️for doing the challenge!! (I did not have an entry).

  • Dana Crandell29 days ago

    I wasn't able to join in the fun on this one, but I'm looking forward to reading all of the entries. Congratulations to the winners, and thanks, Randy, for your challenges. I'm looking forward to checking out #5.

  • JBaz29 days ago

    Randy, I decided to take the month of May off from writing to focus on other things in life. I do wish that I would have seen this challenge, i definitely would have entered. I like that you added the criteria on how you judge. Congratulations to all the winners Ps I think I am inspired to write again and will try to get one out in May.

  • Lamar Wiggins29 days ago

    😮🤩 Congrats to all the winners. Didn’t expect to be among them. Thank you so much for taking the time to put this all together, Randy! It really was one of my favorite prompts, unofficial or not.

  • Anna 29 days ago

    congratulations folks!

  • Alexander McEvoy29 days ago

    Woohoo!! Congratulations on your much deserved win, Mackenzie!

  • Kendall Defoe 29 days ago

    Well done, everyone! ✌🏾🏆

  • Paul Stewart29 days ago

    Back to say well done on this getting Top Story!

  • D. J. Reddall29 days ago

    Congratulations to the winners and thanks again for a provocative and inspiring prompt, Randy!

  • Paul Stewart29 days ago

    Congratulations to Mackenzie, Heather, Matthew and Lamar! I'll get to reading other's entries when I can. Also well done, Randy! another fine challenge!

  • Hannah Moore29 days ago

    I thought this was such a great idea, thanks Randy. And congratulations to the winners!

  • M. A. Mehan 29 days ago

    Congrats to the winners! Ran out of time to enter this prompt but looking forward to the next one!

  • Heather Zieffle 29 days ago

    This has made my day!! Thank you, Randy both for the title of second place and for the fun prompt! I look forward to your next one! 😄

  • Belle29 days ago

    Congratulations to all the winners! I did not enter this one, but I'm excited to see Prompted #5! Keeping my eyes peeled!

  • Mackenzie Davis29 days ago

    Say hWHAT now?? 🫢 Goodness me, Randy. I was fully expecting to have been disqualified, that I cut it too close to the deadline! Thank you so much. Seriously, what a fantastic challenge this was! I hope you were bolstered by the engagement and will continue your Prompted series. I know how much effort goes into hosting these challenges, and I applaud you for being able to judge them as quickly as you do. It's truly admirable. I'm looking forward #5. Thank you for inspiring me with this one, as it was a joy to write for.

  • Matthew Fromm29 days ago

    Ayy thanks as always for hosting Randy! I love the feedback too. If there’s a crown for community challenges, I hereby pronounce you King!

Randy BakerWritten by Randy Baker

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