Thanks to everyone who's posted their entry challenge story here and who's responded so far. As I hope you can see from the comments already posted, this isn't such a scary thing to do! It is, though, quite a brave thing to post your own work and invite comments. For me, the important things to remember are that a) we're all writers (if you write, you're a writer - it is not some kind of weird qualification which you have to gain or secretive club that you have to join) and b) constructive responses should be 'generously rigorous' (or perhaps 'rigorously generous' - I can never make up my mind). And if you're the writer whose story is being commented on, don't forget that what people are critiquing is your story - not you personally!
Guys, I decided to share my entry story. I've never been proud of it and now that I reread it, the unproud feeling stays. Anyway, here it is: Not The Best Of Me (the single) SUBSTITUTE FOR LIFE “It's actually the Milky Way,” said John. “No need to get so emotional about it.” I look at him softly and put my head against his hand, my hairs gently brushing his skin. It is camping season and every year John takes me to that place near the great lake, where we can be alone among other people. Loneliness doesn't actually appeal to my man – he longs for someone to talk to, someone to wake up next to – maybe that's why he has me. But conversations don't come easy to us. Looking up at the sky, all I can think about is if there is something I could bark at, some sort of approaching car, something to defend my John against. And he is pondering on things that aren't even good to eat, piss on or show your teeth to. Yes, golden retrievers are clever, they say, but I don't feel a fit company for that conversation. I can't help but think how nice it would be for John to really have a companion with whom he could talk and exchange actual ideas. Being a software engineer makes him a lot of money, but it also makes him a lot of working hours and, to be fair, makes him a little socially awkward. Male friends don't get his lack of sense of humor, his disinterest in politics and his choice of cars (“Who drives a 2010 BMW when you can afford a Tesla?” I heard someone say once.) Female friends don't get his need for order – folding socks and underwear before putting them in the laundry basket, for example, and his intolerance to perfumes of any kind. Girlfriends don't last long and although he seems to take parting well, after each woman leaving, he gets more and more immersed in work and gaming. And in me. I don't mind that – I get dog superfoods, pricey clothes and ever new toys to chew on but anyway I do need to see him smile to others. Too much love could kill me, as a fellow loud boker once said at the dog playground. So, here we are – me, barking at the unmoving stars, and John, trying to have an intelligent conversation with a dog. Tomorrow I will still be a dog – a loyal dog, a dog that loves his owner, a dog that is a substitute for life.