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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: The Writer's Challenge (NOT the FaithWriters Challenge) (06/10/10)

TITLE: Challenged
By Sarah Elisabeth


“I can’t do it, Nita. You’re a woman.”

I gripped the edge of my apron, determined not to cry.

Mathew pulled in a slow, patient breath. “Nita, ask me to do anything for you, accept this. You know the people of this town. They think a woman’s place is in the kitchen, not writing front page news stories. Not even for my paper.”

“You haven’t even read it,” my voice was soft, a tinge of hope still laced in.

Paper rattled purposefully as Mathew held my carefully written sheet at arm’s length. His eyes traveled back and forth at lightning speed. Then they slowed. His brows knit then relaxed. My brother’s efforts to conceal his approval were not lost on me. A low hum was the last sign.

Without looking up, Mathew asked, “Have you thought of writing under a pseudonym?”

Face growing hot, I struggled to control my anger. “You mean a man’s name? Mathew-“

“Nita, the folks around here aren’t going to accept a woman reporter.”

“That could change. My story is a message you want to spread as much as I do. I see these farmers on a daily basis when I take food baskets to them. No one else in Bryan County knows as much about the farming crisis as a whole than me. This needs to be carried to the community.

“If I recounted the times you’ve told me “there’s nothing more powerful than the press”, we would be here ‘til Christmas. Please, Mathew, you know I’m not one of those feminists that are causing such a stir, but even the Bible reports of the things women have done to change the world. Why, there was Deborah, the judge, Ester, Mary-”

“All right, Nita, all right. I’m not arguing the point about a woman’s place in society. But every decision I make affects the future of this paper. Mr. Calloway holds the loan, and I well know his position on the feminist movement. I can’t tell you of the things he’s wanted me to print.”

Mathew held up my story. “I’m not afraid to print what’s right. That’s what this paper is all about. But there are such things as unnecessary risks. Publishing the article with your name on it is one of them.”

Swallowing back my tears, I shook my head. “Do what you must, Mathew. Just promise me the story will be printed.”

“That, I can do.”

I stayed home the morning the paper circulated, busying myself helping Mother bake pies. They were for the farmers hit so hard by the drought and threat of the railway being rerouted. I prayed my story would reach the hearts of the influential men.

“Nita, we’re almost out of flour. I want to save some for the Thompsons. Be a dear and go to the store for another sack.”

I didn’t think much about the stares until I stepped onto the wood porch of the General Store. Familiar faces from our church turned down. Glancing at my dress, I smoothed at nonexistent wrinkles. Was there a rip somewhere in the folds?

At the counter with my order, Mr. Bates didn’t meet my curious gaze. The man who had known me from birth said little more than, “Anything else?” before I left the store.

Cradling the three pound sack in my arms, I collided with Malinda, my best friend.

“Nita!” Malinda hissed, gripping my elbow.

“I’m sorry, Malinda, I didn’t see-“

“I cannot believe you actually did it.”

“Did what?”

“Gave your story to Mathew.”

“He said he would-“

Malinda aimed the front page at my nose. My jaw dropped.


By Nita Fay Carter.

Leaving Malinda to hold the flour sack, I lifted my skirts as high as I dared and trotted to the newspaper office.

“Mathew! You-you put my name-I thought Mr. Calloway-“

“Straighten your bonnet, Nita, and calm down.”

My lips quivered as I reached to squeeze my brother’s hand. “But what about Mr. Calloway?”

Mathew half smiled. “He’s already been in here, threatening to call my loan unless I write an apology.”

“Oh Mathew-“

“But,” the corners of his lips lifted higher, “Judge Dunning and Sheriff Fisher gave me a nod when they passed my window. With them on our side, we just might be able to start changing minds - like Mr. Calloway’s.”

“I suppose I should write another story?”

Mathew grinned. “There’s nothing more powerful than the press.”

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This article has been read 790 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Dolores Stohler06/17/10
Your story held my interest and made me want to read more. Is this an excerpt from your new book? It sounds like a great plot. Good job!
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 06/17/10
This was a delight to read. I found myself crossing my fingers for the MC.

A tiny error in the beginning confused me for a bit. You said accept but I think you meant except.

I so enjoyed how you reminded people that it wasn't that long ago that women did need a pseudonym to be taken seriously. And it's still true in other parts of the world. Great use of the topic.
Catrina Bradley 06/20/10
What an entertaining story! I want to cheer for Matthew and Nita. :)
Brenda Shipman 06/20/10
I do hope you are writing historical fiction, because this piece definitely showed off your natural flair for this genre! Terrific job!
Colin Swann06/21/10
Oh, so men are not the only ones finding it difficult to get into print.

Interesting piece! Thanks - Colin.
Susan Montaperto06/21/10
I really liked this story. The characters came across as very real. Is there more to come? Also, I looked up the word accept it seems to be correct for the situation. The word in my dictionary has five definitions. One which states "to receive with liking or approval." I did notice that the name Esther was spelled Ester. An Ester is a compound produced by the reaction of an acid and an alcohol. Esther is the Jewish maiden who married the Persian king in the Old Testament. Keep writing.
Verna Cole Mitchell 06/21/10
I really like your mc--more to come?
Virgil Youngblood 06/21/10
Interesting and well written. I wanted to know what the crisis was, since it seemed to divide the loyalties within the community as opposed to dealing with an outside force.
Joanne Sher 06/21/10
Your hook was SUPERB. I HAD to keep reading until I figured out what he couldn't do - and by then I was totally engaged. Wonderful writing. Hope we hear more from these characters.
Connie Dixon06/23/10
Great writing, loved the message here. I don't see this as history, unfortunately. Women still have a long way to go in many areas of life. Thanks for bringing this subject to light.
Carol Slider 06/23/10
Good point--I think women were accepted as novelists and poets long before they were accepted as commentators on political issues. I enjoyed this story and found the characters very intriguing. Well done!
Amanda Brogan06/24/10
LOVE it! Great setting, and I liked how Matthew came through for his sister and printed her name even if his strict boss didn't agree.

Congrats on getting highly commended! I was excited to see your name back at the top. ;)