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.


Random Thursday: Candy, a Contest, and the Steampunk Cheesefest

Jane’s class Halloween party is coming up, and we volunteered to provide the drinks.

My husband went to the wholesale place and bought two flats of assorted juice boxes (one for lunches, one for the party), various household necessities . . . and the biggest bag of Hershey miniatures I’ve ever seen—and that’s coming from a woman who often dreams in chocolate.

“It’s for the Trick-or-Treaters,” he said, with commendable optimism.  “Hey, kids,” he said to the two who had materialized in front of him the moment he said trick-or-treat, “do you think we should hand these out for Halloween?”

“Yes!” said Jane, her nose pressed against the plastic of the bag in an expression of cacao-ian rapture.  “They’ll love them!”

“Daddy?” asked Sunny, her eyes huge.  “Can we come by our house for Halloween and get some of those, too?”


Her Sharkliness, Janet Reid is hosting another one of her 100-word story contests over at her blog, presumably to celebrate the release of  Sophie Littlefield’s new book, Unforsaken—the prize is a critique by Barbara Poelle, who is Ms. Littlefield’s agent.

The required words are: unforsaken, deadly, witch, ghost, decay, and slay, with extra points given for working in insalubrious.

You can place your story in the comments of the contest post starting tomorrow at noon EST.

It’s a fun little exercise and it’s free to enter.

I’m planning to start scribbling mine right after I google insalubrious.


Three Musketeers is coming out tomorrow.   I’ll be going with my friend, Grace, as my husband, who is devoted to the 1970s movies,* which follow the books just a touch more closely,  has declined to go anywhere near it.  He says if they wanted to make Master of the World, they should have—but they shouldn’t call it Three Musketeers.

But I’m planning on reveling in its steampunk fanfic-y cheesiness without apology.

I say fanfic, because this clearly isn’t a remake—it’s a what-if  brought to life, with much fanfare and use of rich fabrics and exploding ordnance.   Barbie and the Three Musketeers might be marginally closer to the source material, and that’s one of the few books I’ve hidden under Sunny’s mattress so I won’t have to face them for a while.**

I may be asked to turn in my Bibliovore Society membership card, but I don’t care about any of this, as long as Matthew Macfadyen keeps talking in that lovely voice of his and Orlando Bloom keeps chomping scenery like a piranha in a fop suit:

Even Genevieve Valentine, who has already dubbed this film The Comedy of the Year, is planning to revel in its anticipated wrongness:

I suspect it’s one of those movies so wonderfully dreadful that, after I see it, I will feel as though it’s always been in my life.

That’s my kind of recommendation.


*The ones with Richard Chamberlain as d’Artagnan—both of whom irritate the behooey out of me, though the book character bugs me marginally less.  While all the Musketeers sport some pretty big character flaws, which makes for more interesting reading, Mr. Chamberlain—a fine actor, I’m told, whose performance in Austin Powers I did enjoy—infuses the admittedly WTF dialogue of his d’Artagnan with just a bit more oblivious arrogant narcissism than I feel is strictly necessary.  Or indeed tolerable.  I actually prefer the Disney version, which might tell you something, though I’d swap all of them for The Man in the Iron Mask with Gabriel Byrne, Gérard Depardieu, John Malkovitch, and Jeremy Irons.

**I think there are one or two Barbie-wrecks-the-classics under there, but mostly it’s just because the best children’s books tend to lose their luster after the bazillionth reading.  Parents, guardians, and caregivers, back me up:  what books have you nudged under the couch?

A memory, a favor, and an opportunity to harvest some cash

When I was a teenager, my favorite babysitting gigs were for one of my mother’s good friends.  Her two sons were well-behaved and utterly cool kids who drew pictures and argued Star Trek with me and grew up to be amazing adults.*  Of course, their mother is a writer, so how could they miss?

She e-mailed me today and asked that I pass along information about the 2011 Harvest the Cash Fall Contest, hosted by the Hamilton Writers Guild, of which she is a member. 

The word limit is reasonable, the prizes are substantial, the entry fee is minimal, and the rules are here.

Short stories are not my forte, but I’m going to give it a try, just to see if I can write a general fiction story and fit a coherent beginning, middle, and end into 1500 words.

Anyone care to join me?  I might need some help figuring  out what general fiction is . . .


*And one of them married a girl named Sarah, of which you can make what you will.