New Writer Spot - Claudia Sensi Contugi.

A while ago, fine scribe and on-line friend, Christopher Pimental, approached me with a question.  Would I allow his writing students to submit a story to the magazine?  Of course, but we'll take it further, was my answer.  I then had the idea that I would run a New Writer slot for Christopher's students.  We batted a few emails to each other, and here it is.

We all need a first chance to get a story published and we've all been there.  This series will be the students first steps into the writing world and I'm very honoured to be part of it.

Here are a few words from Christopher about his class.....

"Two and a half years ago, the top American University in Ecuador announced the creation of a creative writing minor. Four students signed up. Soon, the assigned Creative Writing teacher disappeared (pure happenstance, I promise) and the administrators approached me. Since then, the program has grown to a plump twenty (+) and includes students from the USA, Ecuador, Australia and France. What can I say. With venomous enthusiasm, the students have moved the administration to create more classes since the inception of Creative Writing Basics. The program now includes Script Writing, Creative Writing II, and so forth. We’ve been lucky enough to have guest speakers including Best Selling Author, Sandra Kring and one of my favorite writers, Chad Eagleton. Other notables who will be participating in January are Author and contributor Liam Sweeny and I am trying to lock in Author Brian Kaufman. We’ve also been lucky enough to receive advice and guidance from my sister, working screen writer and supervising producer for Showtime’s Shameless (USA)."
                                                                                           Christopher Pimental.

There you have it.  This will be a regular feature which I'm sure you will all support. So, without further ado.....

The Climb by Claudia Sensi Contugi.

And then he was there.
Sounds came first. From a distance a low murmur, one that grew, and swelled, and droned in his ears to a low moan. It was the sound of agony. Of pain.
Moments later his eyes open to darkness. Then, smoke. Sulfur cuts into his lungs. Around him, the trudge of footsteps; limbs and heavy feet. Bodies pushing him forward. Sweating. Panting. Moaning.
They climb.
He stumbles, falls to his knees. Before him—behind him, around him—the bodies constrict, climbing on granite steps, jostling, pushing. No room to breathe. He struggles to his feet, squeezes back into the crowd. Pulls in air.
Somehow, he continues to climb.
Where am I?
His hands grip his head, fingers digging into his skull. Trying to recall an image, a reason, a moment… of how he got here. On the staircase, he stalls. Through the smoke, he squints at his watch. The second hand ticks but does not advance. Dead at 7:30.
Hands push him forward. He turns to a man on his right.
“Don’t talk.”
“Just keep climbing.” The man turns away.
To the woman on his left, “Do you know-”
“I know nothing.”
“I need-”
“It doesn’t matter what you need,” she says, her voice like ice. “Just keep climbing.”
She trudges forward, consumed by the crowd.
He looks ahead.
Time passes.
His navy blue suit is soaked, clinging to his skin, to the hairs on his neck. Sweat beads on his face, a burning in his bones. Hauls his legs up each granite stair. Feet swollen, blistered. Pain every step. The heat pressing him down. The weight of an anchor across his shoulders. His watch ticks. His body aches to lie down.
He keeps climbing.
“Where are we?” He grips an old man’s shoulder. “Please! What is this place? How do I get out of here?”
The old man wrenches free, strength borrowed from a younger soul. He looks up, his gaze empty. Dead.
“The only way out is up.” He lowers his gaze.
“What does that even—“
From behind, a hand clamps his mouth hard enough to smell the sweat, feel the calluses, trace the bones. A woman’s voice. “They’ll hear you!”
She lets go. He turns.
“Who are they?”
“Just climb and they’ll do you no harm.” She tries to shuffle past, but he catches her sleeve.
“Who? Why won’t you tell me?”
“Lower your voice. You’re going to get us in trouble.”
He conceals his tone, “Where are we?”
“What does it matter? We’re here.”
“How did we get here?”
She lowers her face. Her brow creases. “There is nothing before this place. Nothing that matters.”
He opens his mouth.  The clap of metal on granite stops his voice. Behind him, the crowd quivers then expands. He turns.
The woman draws back, lowering her gaze, her eyes darting left to right. “I told you,” she says. “They’re coming!”
The guards.
Clad in armor, two guards bang through the crowd. From several steps below, they snatch an old man. The old man moans, tries to keep climbing—his look that of an animal seconds from slaughter.
From ahead, he watches the old man, then turns and lifts his foot to climb. And trips.
The crowd pulls wide, jostles past.
He pushes up to find himself standing before the one of the guards. The crowd slows, then stops. The air is still. Chills prickle his nerves. The guard moves closer, as if to smell his fear, his armor plated helmet opening to reveal…nothing.
The moment lingers before the guard turns and descends with a hiss. Joining his partner, he drags the old man down the stairs. They disappear into the smoke.
“You are lucky,” the woman says.
The crowd presses in. He stumbles forward. “What are those things?”
“The guards,” she says, her expression telling him she would reveal no further.
“Why do they do that?”
“What does it matter?”
He pauses again, looks at her. Then peers up the endless rise of granite stairs, his lips a thin, cold line.
“What happens when you don’t have any more strength to climb?”
Her eyes search for the guards. Then, she turns to him. “You keep on climbing.”
Hours later, his navy suit jacket is wilting on his arm; shirt open, tie discarded hundreds of steps ago. A memory comes; blurry at first.
A man wearing his navy blue suit, face down at his desk, skin white as bone. His forehead is pressed against the contract he was forging, the ink still fresh. A thick, black pen has fallen from his hand.
To his right, a picture window looks out over the city night. A bullet hole has fractured the glass. Another has shattered his skull.
A clock ticks on the wall, its opulent face showing the time. 7:30
Claudia Sensi Contugi is a twenty year old Creative Writing Student from way down south.  She has been writing since she was six, doodling submarine adventures.  Recently, she met a Train Wreck who tore down everything she thought she knew about writing...and then stopped doodling.  Claudia is a perfectionist, spending hours suffering over a sentence.  She had self diagnosed OCD since age five, convulsing every time the nanny moved her dolls from their assigned spots.  Most would agree that she can emasculate a man with a single look.This is Claudia’s first published story, and she is thrilled to be part of the Offensive! 


Anonymous said...

i like it

Anonymous said...

it is a very creative story

Cristina A. said...

That was very good. I liked the short sentences, because they help construct the whole mood of the story; they don't give much away, but have us readers suspecting what is going on, and of course, eager to keep reading and find out.

It was very haunting, but at the same time beautifully written (in a terryfying sort of way). You don't know what's going on until the very last, but we still get the feeling that something's definitely off (and we confirm it when those empty guards appear).

Very well written. I wish you the best with your writing carreer. I see a lot of potential in you.

Anonymous said...

I love it!! This is your first creative writting and it was amazing! Congratulations Clau! Continue writting :)

Anonymous said...

I love it!! This is your first creative writting and it was amazing! Congratulations Clau! Continue writting :)

Chad said...

That was tops, Claudia. Fucking tops.

Direct prose. Always moving forward. Crafting concrete images with precision. You maintained tension well and kept me wanting to go forward, learn more, read more...

About the Trainwreck? He does that you know. Shatters what you thought you knew. But he does that so you can be the writer you are. Make sense?

Romina said...

Claudiaaa this is a great piece of work, i liked it very much, please continue writingg! congratulationss

Anonymous said...

Great story. I just kept on reading.

I loved how you wrote it, in certain moments I could actually feel the desesperation and uncertainty of your character.

"I need-"
“It doesn’t matter what you need,” dialogues like this one made me realize you were not talking only about "him", but hiding a bigger message within your lines: once you surpass certain "limits" what you want or need makes no difference at all.


Cesar Martinez said...

That was great Claudia! Congrats! Keep writing like that!

C said...

Claudia, great job. Crisp lines. Pert dialog and the slow climb (that is to say descent) into desperation. And you held off on the money shot until the end.

Much better than a lot of stuff floating out in the ether.

“What happens when you don’t have any more strength to climb?”
Her eyes search for the guards. Then, she turns to him. “You keep on climbing.”

That about says it...

C said...

David, thank you for making this possible. New writer or not, Claudia's story is just good. She does some very smart things with the dialog and the mood.

Warmest, Chris

Anonymous said...

Claudia this story simply shows the depths of the human soul... That dark element everyone has but comes out in different ways... Few people I believe are able to show those feelings in a profound way...Your way is just magnificent... Hope you continue for you sure have talent...congrats!

FernandoChavarría said...

Claudia amazing job, you had me breathless with your description, love it.
Moved by your description at the end. Proud its all I can say. You have a great future ahead.
Sincerely, Fernando Chavarría.

C said...

Chad, I know for a fact that Claudia is THRILLED that you took the time to comment. Thanks:

Mike Miner said...

Excellent work, Claudia. The prose mirrored the action, the constant steps. The atmosphere of mystery of confusion, someone mentioned desperation, was expertly rendered. A riveting, satisfying story.

Simon said...

Nicely done

Anonymous said...

Claudia, this was so good! I was left speechless when I finished reading it. You worked hard, and you got a perfect final product.

I noticed that when the main character speaks, it's only questions or interrupted sentences. I liked that so much because it connects so well to what is happening. All those questions had me more and more intrigued as the story advanced, and the interruptions showed how he no longer had control over anything happening.

I loved it and I hope I get to read more of your work.

Carla Velasquez

Ren said...

Great story Claudia! Looking forward to reading more of your stories!

Anonymous said...

Claudia!!! what great story you wrote!!! It´s really awesome!!! Good Luck in your career!! Jazmín Solís. =)

Anonymous said...

I loved it sooo much! Writers like her are who keep good literature alive! Clau please continue writing! I look forward to read more from you :* lauraGN

Anonymous said...

Nice work! I enjoyed reading it

gc said...

That was pretty good. I loved how you created a feeling of agony, tension, and desperation through the whole story, you never lost it that was great. Excellent work, good luck with your career!

Anonymous said...

this girl has potential.. seriously!! great job!! (ATB)

Anonymous said...

My favorite writter eveeeer

Ma.Paz said...

Claudia you have a unique talent and this is something admirable. It was really stunning the way you show how death is, the suffering and pain. When you want to cross the line, pass all the obstacles and just keep climbing. But at the end you realize that there is no time and you just have to say goodbye.
Nice work congrats.

Paz V. :)

Andres Garcia said...


David Barber said...

Really enjoyed this story, Claudia. I could feel the desperation in the people through your words and there was some great dialogue. An all round excellent piece of writing. Really well done.

It was a pleasure working with you!

Anonymous said...


Very well written. Good story. I am not a writer myself so I will just say that I really liked it!

Kelli White

G said...

Great story. It really kept my interest all the way through.

Congrats on your very first published story.

Paul D. Brazill said...

A knockout.

pattinase (abbott) said...

This is a great project and a winning first story from it. How I wish there had been a FFO to publish our first stories. It would have been such a great boon to writing classes. Thanks, David and thank Chris for bringing it here.

Anonymous said...

Great Claudia!

octavio reyes said...

very good story shes a good writer and she clearly has a great teacher.
octavio reyes

C said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Claudia said...

Thank you to everyone for reading and commenting!! I really appreciate the feedback, and I am so thankful for the response this story has gotten. Thank you so much to all you for your support!!! Your words inspire me not to give up and keep on writing! :)

Anonymous said...

I like the anonymity, the faceless masses, the sweaty desperation of not knowing. Kafka would nod, stroke his wispy beard and say, "Yes," to this marvelous first publication. Warning, Claudia, we'll be expecting more stories from you . . . soon. :)

quin browne said...

props on a well constructed piece.

Anonymous said...

I could really feel his confusion as I read, especially when people wouldn't give him a straight answer. Of course, it isn’t just about his progression; it’s the story of what all these people have gone through…

The short sentences help to show the confusion and desperation perfectly and really kept me on the edge of my seat. Definitely get the feel that this is punishment after death…this part sealed it for me:

“What happens when you don’t have any more strength to climb?”

Her eyes search for the guards. Then, she turns to him. “You keep on climbing.”

It is like acceptance. This is your fate, and you have to keep going.

Great piece, well done.

koko23cat said...

A very well written piece. Excellent structure and use of language. The writing is grammatically sound while still maintaining its character.

A very strong piece of work by a very talented young lady.

Well done.

Claudia said...

I really appreciate the feedback, what you all describe is exactly the feeling I was aiming for: the confusion, the anonimity, the final acceptance of one's fate. Thank you! :)

camilaB said...

claudia!!! your story was amazing, i'm so proud of you. i couldn't stop reading! i'm sure you'll go far and we'll keep reading great things from you!

Cristy I said...

Claudia! I finally read it, and all I can say is WOW!
Great Story! You are very very talented Clau. I can't wait for more stories :) keep writing.

Luis Ceballos said...

I love the flow of the story. What I love the most is the mystery which involves this type of underworld where the main character is in. Nice story keep it coming. :)

Luis C.

Andres Sacoto said...

hi! good story. i like the mystery you gave to the story, it makes the story more interesting and that makes me continue reading the story. good job.

Anonymous said...

I like it ! It makes one want to keep reading to see what is next. Good job. Wish you the best of success in your writing career. - Karina L.

Anonymous said...

i like it! it makes one keep reading. Good Job! Best of success in your writing career - Karina L

Glenn Gray said...

Great writing! Nicely done.

Maria P. Illingworth J. said...


Anonymous said...

I am impressed. Nicely done. I like the imagery and tension that you built during the story. Congratulation and I hope this is the first of many.
Andres Estupinan

Charlie Wade said...

Excellent stuff. Very fast paced throughout.

Mariajose D. said...

Claudia that was amazing! Reading the story just had me on the edge the whole time! This is just the beginning, you'll do great things! We're all so proud of you! Keep writing!

Chris P. said...

Chris here, on behalf of Claudia.

To David: What can I say? You're making dreams come true. (To ALL who supported David's "New Writer" spot: overwhelming is the word that comes to mind.)

To Claudia's classmates and friends: props for opening your minds and supporting something new.

Specific thanks to PATTI ABBOTT, CHARLIE WADE, GLENN GRAY, AJ HAYES, PAUL D. BRAZILL, DAVID BARBER and CHAD EAGLETON), mega-talents and top-notch wordhuffers: Respect for staying real, continuing to show support.

Background on this story:
Saw it back in June. Liked its premise. But it was too long, plump with beginner mistakes: repetition, overkill, endless narration trying to drive points home. (Okay, we all make those errors..."The Vigg Train" comes to mind.)

Anyway, Claudia hissed like a badger in a snare when I rejected it. Long story short, she continued to study, though. Opened her mind to critique, aborted her ego along the way. When we came back to "The Climb" six weeks later, mistakes began to blink like neon on her screen. She took a hatchet to the next several drafts and in the end, produced a damn good piece.

That said, had it not been for David and all of you who supported his spot, no one else but me would have read "The Climb". So, THANK YOU.

Ames said...

Nicely done. The short sentences definitely help convey the confusion and panic. This story proves that it isn't always what you write, but often what you don't that drives it home. Kudos to Claudia and mad respect as always to the Wreck. Great idea and motivation for the students to keep pushing!

Anonymous said...

Thank you Claudia. Your story is amazing. Please, keep writing. =)
Minyan Wu

sympathy's symphony™ said...

Well done Claudia. Always 'hear' what the Wreck tells you, don't just listen! :) The best pieces of work are born from brutal critique by your peers. I loved the pace as it builds to the conclusion, the wonderful twist at the end. keep at it as your potential is very evident.

Roberta M said...

Great story!! Loved it!!

Anonymous said...

it is very interesting how much of a moment can be written in long terms. Plus, the creation of suspense on the whole climbing is terrific, keep the readers wanting more about it and let them with the intrgue of what is going to happen next.
congratulations.very good story.

Isa said...

Great story Claudia! Congrats!! Looking forward to read more of your stories!

Anonymous said...

Very Good Work Claudia..! keep it up!

Benjamin Sobieck said...


Seriously? This is your first story? What a fantastic debut. Reads like someone's 100th. And from the these comments, it looks like you honed your writing over and over. There isn't a better lesson to learn. Revision gets every author closer to perfection. I hope that's where those short sentences came out. Efficient writing packs the most punch.

Bravo, keep on writing.


Sean Patrick Reardon said...

Very enjoyable read, Claudia. The pacing and suspense build up were exellent. Hope to read more of your writing in the future.

Liam Sweeny said...

Saw it, felt it... You had me convinced. And I do love a good twist at the end. Touche!

JoseLuis said...

You made me get into the story. I just couldn't stop reading it!!!!
Great story

Nicole Salmon said...

Congrats Claudia this was such an interesting reading, I was desperate to keep reading to know how it was going to end. I don't know much about writing but I do remember, from what I learned in the creative writing workshop with Chris, that that happens when a story is GOOD!!!!! Looking forward to read more of your stuff! Take care and again congratulations

Juan Falquez said...

Claudia its a great story.. continue writing like that its awesome..!

Anonymous said...

Great job Claudia. Couldn't read fast enough to get to the end. From Tony (Train Wreck's reluctant friend in Miami)

Anonymous said...

A lessor writer telling the same story would have tortured readers with over-inflated drama and a trite ending. But you handled the theme with the finesse of a published writer twice your age. I not only walked every anxious, weary step with your protagonist, but I didn’t step out of those shoes until long after the third read. Excellent job, Claudia! ~ Sandra Kring

Claudia said...

Thank you again to everyone who has read and commented! Special thanks to Sandra Kring! Sandra, the fact that you read it was enough to make my day. But knowing that you, not only liked it, but read it three times is mind blowing! Thank you for those wonderful words!

Andrea Arteaga Icaza said...

amazing I really liked it

Fernando Chonqui said...

Claudia I'm astonished. It makes me happy to read how much talent there is at our country. Keep the hard work and the dedication and you will "climb" to the top very easily. I also want to thank you for having awaken my passion for reading. I legit am going to buy a book tomorrow after work.

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