Inspirational Nostalgia, or Why I Owe Terry Petersen a Bag of Marshmallows

There are few things odder than realizing that the man sitting a few tables over in the intensive MWW writing workshop you drove six hours to attend is the kid you used to babysit twenty-something years ago.

Open MikeAnd that he has a book out. A good book.

It would be counter-productive to feel jealous of his talents, so I’ve decided to take partial credit for Greg’s success; the influential strength of letting kids stay up late to watch Star Trek and allowing maybe a few extra snacks from the stash on top of the fridge* clearly cannot be stressed enough.

His mother, who is a good friend of my mother** and writes beautiful short stories, was also at MWW, and while we took different intensives, he tracked her down and we were able to talk a little during the break.

He’s a lot taller than I remember and she’s slightly shorter.  But I’m wider, so it all evens out.

And speaking of degrees of separation, the girl Jane runs around with whenever she visits her grandparents in Cincinnati—the one she’s still begging to have over for a sleepover, despite the 8-hour drive—is Greg’s daughter.

I know I knew that—I’m sure Mom told me multiple times—but the weight of passing time didn’t actually smack me upside the head like a bagful of lead calendars before he nodded at the picture I offered and said, “Ohhhh, yeah, I know Janie.”***

And then break was over and we all went back.

About a week later, Terry Petersen sent me a nice e-mail that included a flyer for the annual fiction contest run by the Hamilton Writers’ Guild, of which she is a member.

Ten bucks gets you a two-thousand word buy-in and a deadline of October 21. The top prize is $250, second is $125, and third is $75.

Rules are here.

I haven’t written short fiction in a long time, unless abandoned first chapters count, but I’m thinking this would be an opportunity to try.

Maybe a heartwarming story about a babysitter, two brothers, and the Statute of Limitations . . .


*Though to be fair, some of that was Steve’s fault—he was a climbing ninja.

**Which is how I got the sitting gig in the first place, and I’m sure she’s pleased about hiring me now . . .

***I get this a lot.  I never know whether to smile proudly or wince, so I generally freeze until the other parent gives me more clues.