The WIU Creative Writing Festival

April 11, 1997  Friday

This day almost never happened.  Because of the snow we’ve received over the last day Mom’s maroon LTD Crown Victoria almost didn’t get out of the driveway.  The driving conditions were terrible: crunchy while slippery.  Seven cars were in the ditch as we made our creeping way west to McDonough County.  It took nearly three hours for the seventy miles.

Once we arrived on campus I had to find where this thing was being held. Just as I got to the second floor of the student union it was starting.  In the morning we divided into groups of about nine people, and each went into different workshops.  One of the things we did during a morning session was write down a secret about ourselves (real or made-up).  Mine was “I was born on Valentine’s Day.”  Something simple, good for a quick story if needed.  The message I randomly got from another student was: “Through heredity and peer pressure I have been an alcoholic since the age of 13.” This was not like mine.

Our assignment was to put ourselves in that position and write about how we felt.  This was my attempt at putting myself in that person’s place:

There is a picture of myself, on the mantle in the living room.  It’s been there a long time, and I hate it.  The picture is from when I was five years old.  My teeth clench and I shake a bit when I pass by it.  Those innocent eyes staring back, with the gap-toothed smile haunts me.  I am not that person.

Corruption knows no age limit, and mine came at an early age.  Just as the air of life was beginning to fill me, I was suffocated.  I was barely given a fighting chance to stave off the disease.  Most inherit a talent like singing, or good looks from their mother’s side.  My gift was alcoholism.

I do not put the blame fully on my parents, or my grandparents, or my…  That would make little sense.  There is one thing I’ve learned, though.  Friends are like hammers.  The brutal force of a group’s persuasive swings are overwhelming.  I tried.  I really tried, to ignore, because I’m young but I’m not stupid.  I was the one, afterall, who saw my mom, asleep on the ground, having fallen from the couch in the night.  I knew.  But soon I felt I could not longer keep back their endless blows.  I felt as helpless as a fly, struggling in the futility of a spider’s web.

I cannot relate on paper the emotions I have experienced, the things I was witnessed as a child, and the depths I feel my life has reached.  On the outside I seem little changed, it’s true, but inside of me there is no more air left to yell.

Those eyes on the mantel still stare at me, but they are not mine.

In the afternoon I went to hear a speaker give his impressions on fiction writing.  I only half listened at times, because my mind was competing to also think about the awards ceremony afterwards.

Let me just say it.  I didn’t win.  As I sat there, of course I was disappointed.  You might say I should’t have given my hopes up.  Let me tell you something.  I had no choice in thinking I was going to win.  A voice inside of me nudged, “Hey, this is your moment! That’s the thing you do! It is not just a habit, a hobby, for you.  It is necessary for you to write, for if you don’t you would either wither or explode.  This is your very best effort of your best talent.”

Before I go any further in this silly internal monologue that often crept into my mind these last weeks, let me also rejoin … myself.  I am also still happy to just be here.  I do think my story is better than the script that won first.  But I listened to it and thought it was a quality work too.

This experience today has helped me.  I have to add this tidbit too.  As I was about to leave, I stopped by the admissions office.  I asked if two certain girls from Princeville are on the freshmen list for the fall.  Ainsley Lagerstein and Holly Andrews are scheduled to begin classes at Western next fall too.

Today school started an hour late, again because of the frigid weather conditions.  I wonder what happened while I was gone.  Sidney should still be able to go to the movie in Elmwood, as the roads have significantly improved.

Finally, Trisha will tell about a memory that she remembers all too well:

Bushels of Corncob Memories:  As told by Trisha Taylor

Trisha’s memory is probably the best I’ve heard so far.  In seventh grade she was going out with Ray Browning.  One night they were at the Palace Theater uptown on a date.  Ray Browning went to kiss Trisha, but just as he was about to he burped by accident in her face.


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