Submission to the Centre Daily Times Contest

My local newspaper, the Centre Daily Times has a collaborative short story writing contest. The newspaper started the story and the readers were tasked with the next 500 to 650 words. I was select twice in last year’s contest, but my story was not chosen this time. Below I have posted the beginnin of the story as well as my submission, which I think was my strongest effort thus far.
Here is the beginning written by the Centre Daily Times:

Standing near the corner of Allegheny and Bishop streets, Scott surveyed the classic cars on display for the Bellefonte Cruise: a 1967 Chevrolet Corvette, a 1988 GT Mustang convertible, a 1955 Ford Fairlane Crown Victoria.

Although he’d never really been much of a car buff — still driving the same 1992 Honda Civic he bought used nearly a decade ago — he could still appreciate the care these auto enthusiasts put into their vehicles.

A familiar tune caught his attention above the din of the engines, and he turned toward the Diamond, where a band was playing.

“But he could play the guitar just like ringing a bell,” the singer crooned. “Go, go, go Johnny go, go, go Johnny, go go.”

“Boy,” Scott said, tears welling up. “Does that bring back memories.”

My Submission:

Scott could almost picture his father’s ’57 Chevy, water dripping off of it in the July sun. Every Sunday, before the leaves started to fall and frost replaced morning dew, Scott and his father would wash the family car after church. Many songs, including “Johnny B. Good” would play on the old AM radio as they meticulously cleaned his father’s pride and joy. The memories he had of his time with his father were so vivid he could almost smell his father’s aftershave. Scott wished his father were still here, to offer advice on how to get through to his son, Joey. “That boy needs to get his head out of the clouds,” thought Scott.

Scott’s wife would often say, “He’s probably just going through a phase, honey. He really is a good kid. He has never once been in trouble at school. Maybe he just doesn’t enjoy washing the car?” Scott would usually mumble, “I never went through a phase” in reply.

Joey heard the band wail the lyrics to Johnny B. Good and thought to himself, “Man, that’s lame. That song has to be a hundred years old.” It was probably some song his dad used to listen to. When Joey was ten, he thought it was cool to look at the cars with his dad and listen to his dad explain how much better cars were when he was young. At 13, however, Joey would rather walk around with his friends.

Skuzzy walked over to Joey, who was standing on the steps of the courthouse. Skuzzy, of course, was not really his name. Skuzzy gave himself his nickname because of his love of computers and would probably spell it SCSI. Due to his aversion to soap, water, or any combination of the two, Skuzzy more than earned his nickname. “Hey Joey, how’s it going?” said Skuzzy.

“I’m OK I guess.” said Joey. “My dad’s been hounding me to wash the car with him, but I don’t see the point. It’s a ’92 Civic! It must be a “Field of Dreams thing, except with cars instead of baseballs.”

The truth of the matter was that Joey had lost his grandfather’s watch, which his father gave him on his tenth birthday. Washing the car with his dad reminded him of the watch. Joey had not yet summoned the courage to tell his father that the old watch, which Joey’s grandfather had earned from working all those years in the coalmines, was gone. “If only I had some money.” Joey thought to himself. “Then I could get another watch that looked just like my grandfather’s watch and my dad would never know.”

Skuzzy shrugged his shoulders and said, “Well, I’m kinda bored here. Do you wanna come over to my house?”

“Cool, maybe we can go up to the attic,” said Joey. Joey knew his dad would be eyeing the classic cars for a while and surely wouldn’t miss him. Skuzzy lived on Linn Street in an old Victorian house with a walk-up attic, whose mysteries always excited the boys.

Skuzzy opened the large wooden front door to his house and the two friends raced up the stairs to the attic. Being 13 year-old boys, they rarely did anything slow, save for cleaning their room and finishing their homework.

Skuzzy was the first into the attic, throwing open the door and sprinting for the far side wall. Unfortunately, he never made it there. Skuzzy’s shoelace caught on a raised floorboard, sending him sprawling to the floor and ripping a two-inch hole in his shorts. As Skuzzy lay on the floor, still dazed from the fall, Joey entered the attic. If he hadn’t arrived at that exact moment, he might have missed seeing the glint of light underneath the floorboard. What Joey discovered in this forgotten space was a small wooden box.

Television is my Nemesis

I have come to the conclusion that television is the #1 enemy of my writing. Every day during work I think about going home, eating some dinner and spending some time with my wife and then spending a little time doing some writing. Once I get home, however, everything changes.

Usually what happens is that I get home, cook dinner, and then sit down in front of the television for “just a couple minutes”. Before I know it, it is time to go to sleep. This process is pretty much the same every day. It is even worse on days that the Penguins are on television. That almost certainly keeps me away from writing for the entire night.

Why do I watch television rather than write? Here is a list:

  1. It is easier to watch t.v. that to write. Why create something, when I can just consume something already created by someone else?
  2. The couch is in front of the t.v, which is much cozier than an office chair in front of the computer
  3. Writing is scary. There is no way to fail at writing, if I never try.
  4. Mental fatigue. Spending all day staring at a computer and using my brain, it is nice to sit in front of the television and not use my brain at all.

Anyhow, this is my list. Does anyone else have anything to add? Maybe someday I can vanquish my nemesis.

The Quest for 25 Goals

In addition to writing, another one of my hobbies is playing ice hockey. I play in a no-check (which is debatable) adult ice hockey league once or twice a week, depending on my team’s schedule. Since we play on the same ice as the Penn State Icers, youth hockey teams, and figure skaters, we get the leftover ice times such as 6:00 AM on Saturdays and 10:45 PM on Sundays. I would consider myself a decent player. I would like to think that my play is improving from season to season.

Last season, my friend Carey, who plays on my team, challenged me to score 25 goals. Although I came up short and only scored 20 goals, it was the most goals I have scored in a season. So, I have challenged myself to improve on that 20 goals and score 25 this year. Thus far, I have 11 goals in 19 games played. My team has 17 games remaining. It will be tough, but I think I can pull it off. The key will be for me to have a few multi-goal games, which would take the pressure off of me to score in every game.

I will update this page periodically with my progress. Our next game is Saturday.

The Ups and Downs of Writing

I have been working on a submission to a short story/collaborative writing contest for my local newspaper, The Centre Daily Times. As a beginning writer, I have noticed this is a very emotional process for me.

I started off with a pretty good idea for my submission, and felt as though I was the greatest writer of all time.  Ideas were coming to me one after the other and it all sounded so clever.

Then, I would hit a block and would have trouble deciding where the story should progress.  It was then that I felt as though I was a terrible writer and would never accomplish anything with my writing and I should just stick to programming and databases, which I think I am skilled at.

I am the same way with sports.  I can score a couple goals in hockey and feel likeI am finally becoming a decent player.  Then, I will not score in a few games and I feel like I am embarrasing myself.

This is what I struggle with constantly, and I doubt I will ever get over these feelings.  At least I recognize this pattern in myself. Right?

Steelers

With all the excitement for this upcoming Sunday, I had to write something about the upcoming AFC Conference Championship between the beloved Pittsburgh Steelers and the Denver Broncos. It should be a good matchup. I have confidence in the Steelers, but I would not put money on the game. I have been let down too many times by the Steelers. That said, if the Steelers can establish the passing game early and put pressure on Jake Plummer, I think things will turn out fine and they will be Super Bowl bound.

The last time the Steelers went to the Super Bowl was my freshman year of college. I refused to watch the game at any parties or large groups of people, instead I stayed in my dorm room to watch the game in peace. The Steelers were big underdogs to the Cowboys. However, the Steelers had a great chance to win the game if it wasn’t for Neil O’Donnell’s two horrendous interceptions.

As for this season, I can confidently say two things. First of all, Big Ben could probably walk up to almost any female in Pittsburgh and get a yes answer to a marriage proposal. Also, if the Steelers manage to win the Super Bowl, there will be a boom on the name Ben in the city.

Things I am learning about myself

I have been working on a submission for the second Centre Daily Times Short Story. In struggling with this, I am learning about myself. I sat at the computer several times to work on my submission. Several things go through my head. I get nervous, and almost panic myself. At that point, I wind up avoinding writing by surfing the Internet. Yesterday, I tried a different strategy. I printed out my submission and wrote on it using old pen and paper. This seemed to work much better for me. I hope to do the same tonight.

Introduction

Hello, my name is Paul.  I am a computer programmer by day and a struggling writer by night.  Someday, I hope to actually finish a story.

As long as I can remember, I have loved to read other people’s stories.  By writing, I hope to create my own stories, and just maybe make someone’s day a little better.