The Right to Write: Pick one story

This is synchronous, since I’m going to post my possible Nanowrimo stories on my main blog, in hopes of figuring out as I write what will be the most fun to write for around 2500 words a day. It’s also an exercise to keep me accustomed to writing raw material, as I’m pretty heavily embedded in rewriting at the moment, and that’s a very different process.

5 topics I could write about:

  1. My favorite pet
  2. My favorite vacation
  3. An unexpected accomplishment
  4. The places I’ve lived and why I moved
  5. My favorite teachers

I think I’ll go with the unexpected accomplishment. I’ve told this story a few times, but I don’t know if I’ve written it down. It’s from high school, so probably. There’s more college memories that have gone unrecorded, if for no other reason than to make sure the statute of limitations has expired. (Joke!)

My high school speech team started up my junior year in part because the state sent down the edict that the school could have a speech team, or the football players could pay for their own damn jock straps. So lo, a speech team was born. I joined at the time because I actually really did like public speaking, and during my junior year, every few meets I would cross paths with my boyfriend (he attended a school about ten-fifteen miles north of my town) who was on the state championship Douglas-Lincoln (was that it?) debate team. Also, it gave me plenty of chances to talk to kids from other schools. Kids from other schools were universally nicer and more fun than kids from my school.

It turned out I had a knack for it, but I also had shit for coaching. The speech coach we had was trying to live out her feminist mistakes through another member of my team, and was often so busy making whatever the hell we were doing some weird and completely unnecessary competition between herself and every other speech coach that at least twice I missed my competitions just because she couldn’t get her head out of her ass enough to show up on time and ask direct questions. I also had the cloud of my father hanging over me: he had stopped doing speech coach work long before I even knew about it.  Still, somehow, any coach from one of the lesser teams seemed to remember my father and hold some sort of grudge. I dreaded getting one of those coaches as a judge, just because I knew it was my father being graded and not me. This is despite him actually doing very little coaching, and what little I got from him I more or less demanded.

So week after week I found myself going up against kids who were coached for speech competitions from  birth, who had polished deliveries, knew how to break the rules and could leave me in a pile of ash. I always came close to placing, but not quite.

My senior year the boyfriend had dumped me and I was sort of sleepwalking through the year to avoid thinking about or acknowledging the hellish conditions of the house I lived in at the time.  It was depression, but not enough that anyone cared, and I was going through the motions necessary to make everyone around me think they were getting what they wanted while quietly laying track for my eventually escape. I honestly don’t remember how I fared competitively that year – I think not well. Except for one: the broadcast tournament.

My speech coach had thrown herself behind making sure another team member got everything she wanted, and in the process kept sticking me in crap I didn’t want to do, I wasn’t prepared for, and that no one had coached me on, period. It didn’t help that she kept listening with her ego instead of listening to what I – or even any of the coaches from other teams – actually had to say. In a spectacularly crappy maneuver, she threw me into broadcasting the morning of a speech. I had to prepare my material on the way to the meet, and from there stumble through.

This was at the pre-sectionals meet, the one that defined the standout competitors from the rest. So I prepared my material, and went into the competition.

And I rocked it. I placed 1st place first round…and then again on the 2nd round.

On the 2nd round, some girls from another school found me and had a little talk. Apparently the girl that was the “reigning queen” in broadcast competition had a habit of finding the girls she was competing with and psychologically battering them right before they’d go into the next round. You have to have a super clean mindset for broadcast, and she ensured her place by making sure the competition was not at its best.

Sure enough, half an hour later, when I was sitting with my teammates, a girl approached and asked for me. I spoke up when she asked for me by name. “No, she’s not here. Not sure where she is.”

My friend Tim boggled at me. “Why’d you make her go away? She was hot!”

I rolled my eyes. “It’s a competitive thing. Just trust me, OK?”

I got through the final round, and then we had to sit through the whole award-auditorium thing. Broadcasting was called last. As it turns out, there was a tie for first place.

They actually did the beauty pageant thing where the lesser placed got theirs and you knew by elimination who won. When they got down to just me and the other girl, the girls who placed second and third both hugged me.

The girl who tied with me for first asked, “Why did you lie to me?”

I smiled at her. “I was warned about you.”