My 5 picks for the 'Next Great (American) Novel'

And the winner is?


Write the first chapter of the next Great [American] Novel.

For this challenge, we ask you to explore the theme of national identity and belonging through the lens of your birth country, or the country you have lived in that you most deeply identify with. Whether you choose to highlight your nation’s triumphs, struggles, or its diverse tapestry of voices, let your creativity flow freely as you contribute to the rich tradition of the next Great [Insert Your Country] Novel. Embrace the spirit of inclusivity and paint a vivid portrait of your country’s life, history, and aspirations, striving to build a literary legacy that celebrates the collective human experience.

Thank you Vocal for this wonderful challenge, and encouraging writers to include countries of our choice in the tale.

How often do you catch yourself reading other peoples works that are entered into the Challenges Vocal sets out for all of us? As you read do you wonder who is going to win, does my entry stand a chance? Or, I wish I would have written that.

I desperately needed a break from writing and headed to the entries for the Next Great American Novel. As I see it, reading is a necessity to become a good writer.

Also, I want to see if I can pick who might win top places for the next American Great American Novel.

I am not a professional writer; I have never had a course in writing. Therefore I am basing these choice’s on the criteria, and how well the story fits to the challenge itself. I have been influenced and inspired by such Canadian authors as:

W.O. Mitchel -Stephen Leacock- Farley Mowat – Mordecai Richler – Margaret Laurence- Donald Jack and of Course Mark Twain (Not Canadian, but received an award in Montreal)

Disclaimer: Please note, I haven’t read ALL submissions! But I have tried to read many entries and pick some of the ones that particularly stood out, if they grabbed my attention with-in the first paragraph I kept reading.

Double Note: This was not easy, narrowing it down to five. I have a greater appreciation for how Vocal chooses the winners. There are so many excellent pieces written for this challenge and if I had more time I would have said ‘My top fifty picks.’

It is so easy to get caught up in our own work, we fail to see the brilliance of other writers. My goal is one day to win an award for a challenge and the only way I can do that is by constantly improving and trying. Oh yeah and keep writing.

With out further delay, these are my 5 picks that I feel should be considered. In no particular order:


The Reflection of the River

By Marissa Elizabeth

From the opening paragraph to the final line this story has an essence of nostalgia. Expressing a thought and urges that many young people feel, the need to escape. Yet fighting with inner struggles of responsibilities and doing the right thing. But this young women’s reasons are what compelled me to continue reading. It does what many great stories should, it leaves you wanting more.

That she knows I am pedaling farther and farther each day, that the dust I kick up into my lungs is polishing them for the day I take that final ride.’


Wherever the Whistle Blows

By Sarah Danaher

Realizing that this is based on someone’s life, just magnifies the story. In loving memory of my Great Grandfather, Happy Harry Cassidy, based on events in his early life.

The writer adds emotion to this tale that is hard to ignore, you can feel the love in every word and sentence. This story of two brothers with dreams bigger than most, invites us to be a part of their adventure. In truth they show more courage and determination than most at their age. While at the same time showing the naivete of youth. Throughout this piece the characters let the readers know they are in for one wild ride.

Adventure could be found anywhere, and the world would not pull him down


The Tattered Quilt

By J. S. Wade

It is no wonder this story grabs the readers attention right away. The way the words flow and descriptions by the author are beautifully written in every detail. A cold war era story told from the view of an army brat. Traveling across the country, moving with his family to begin a new life as civilians. While on this journey our main characters imagination blends with reality. Strongly influenced by one of his ancestors, none other than Captain William Kidd.

‘Stevie opened his pirate book to read about his ancestor and imagined he stood at the helm of his ship, plowing the high seas in search of treasure.

“Full sail and full speed ahead, Mateys! Stevie said. His older brothers ignored him.’


Mama Called Me Money

By M. Fritz Wunderli

This tale is rich in characters with a deep back story that lulls the reader in by imagination. I was drawn into this immediately because of the way the characters were so expertly crafted.

With out giving anything away, this story is of a poor young orphan child. Who decides to make his own way in the world, discovering new friends, experiencing life, and with one big adventure soon to come.

The scenes are beautifully descriptive.

‘ The mound of lumpy blankets and stinky clothes next to me wriggled and sat up. His squashed face was caked with grease and grime.’


The Last Mystery Writer

By C. H. Richard

Now, this is a relatable story to every wanna-be writer out there. The trials and strains the pains and the hope all rolled into one beautiful ball of exceptional writing. A tale that makes you feel every fear and belief that one goes through to hopefully achieve their goal. Sell a book and pray that it is accepted. This deals with one special night in the authors life that quite frankly is magical. Belief in oneself is an overlying theme.

Nicholas looked up from the couch and chimed in “Mommy says you are unemployed, and you should get a real job,” he turned back to his flying truck.’


Yes, I did submit one of my own.

My piece deals with a dark moment in Canadian history and of the people who came to this country to escape persecution and poverty. Who’s only dream was to give their children a better life than they had. I am proud to be Canadian and proud of my heritage. I hope you enjoy my story.

‘Days first light crept over the horizon, giving life to the morning mist that clung to the ground. Weaving itself like a pellucid snake through the barren fields.’

There are so many more exceptionally crafted pieces to read, I encourage you to do so.

Jason Basaraba

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