Judges not impressed by weird walk home

One evening in June 1986, I picked up the newspaper and learned that a popular columnist, Mr. J, would be on vacation for three weeks in July. The Powers That Be invited readers to submit stories to a Columnist for a Day contest. The contest judges would then choose twelve guest columnists to fill Mr. J’s slot.

I had taken several writing classes at the University of Arizona, so I figured I had a fair chance at getting published. However, I couldn’t decide what to write. The newspaper probably would be swamped with submissions. Would the judges read every entry? I had to choose the right topic and the right title—things that would make my story stand out from, most likely, hundreds of others.

I wanted to keep it nice, so anything controversial was out. Finally, I opted to write about my scary (to me) walk home one summer night during the 60s, when I was in my late teens.

I had walked to a friend’s house early that evening; she was supposed to drive me home around 9 p.m. However, her sister hadn’t returned with the car. By 11:30 p.m., I was half asleep, and I wanted to go home. My parents went to bed early. I didn’t want to call them, so I decided to walk the mile or so to our house.

We lived in one of those small towns where nothing ever happens. But I still felt a little skittish walking home alone. According to the local rumor mill, someone had recently spotted a prowler roaming around neighborhood yards after dark. If the prowler really existed, I hoped I wouldn’t run into him. (And, as it turned out, I didn’t.)

I put off writing the story until a week before the due date. I wrote the first draft, revised it, revised it again, and typed the final version. I titled it “A Walk on the Weird Side.” I was fairly certain that the title would get the judges’ attention and entice them to read the entire entry. I mailed it at the last minute and waited for a phone call from the newspaper.

I didn’t get one. Not that year.

(to be continued)

About WestWordArizona

Writer, editor, originally from Berkshire County, Massachusetts, now living in North San Diego County, California.
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2 Responses to Judges not impressed by weird walk home

  1. It sounds like an interesting story. I hope that the to be continued includes that the judges picked it the next year.

  2. Yes, a year later, they did choose my entry as one of the winners. That was the first essay/article I had published. I originally titled it, “Confessions of a Household Failure,” but the Powers That Be changed it to “Cleaning Up Her Act Has Been an Untidy Task.” I guess putting some form of the word “confess” in a title really perks up people.

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