If all your virtual ears were burning, it’s because Thyra10 and I were talking about you.
Thyra came to see me all the way from Norway, and we spent a week exploring Arizona and looking back on our amazing fanfiction adventures. The more we reminisced, the clearer it became just how special our experiences were in the SVM fanfiction world.
I was a timid new writer when I discovered fanfiction, but by the time I’d posted my seventy stories, I was fearless. Buoyed by the support of so many friends, I was eager to share my stories as fast as I could write them. And I devoured countless stories written by all my favorite writers. Now that a little time has passed, it’s easy to look back and see what a phenomenon that period in my life was, and how fortunate I was to share it with so many talented friends, including Thyra10.
We both still love to write, and even talk about writing something together someday, but it’s hard to imagine any writing experience being more rewarding than when fanfiction ruled my world. Thanks for the memories.
For those of you who don’t know, in my real life, I write a column for a newspaper in North Carolina. I wrote a weekly column, Tryon Diary, when I lived in Tryon, and now send in occasional Postcards from Phoenix.
I don’t usually share my columns here, but thought you might find this one of interest. It’s about a ghost story contest I entered.
As many of you know, I loved fanfiction contests and entered as many as I could. Just when I’d think I was plum out of story ideas, a new contest would pop up, and I’d be off and running. I am so grateful to all those in our fandom who worked tirelessly to host those contests, and to keep that fun spark alive in our community.
When I heard about this ghost story contest in North Carolina, my first thought was I can’t write a ghost story. But then I remembered always feeling that same way when a fanfiction contest would appear–that I didn’t have a story like that in me. But it was those contest prompts that inevitably got my wheels turning.
We have so many wonderful stories in our fandom to cherish that all started with someone’s idea to host a contest. I tried to collect the links to the SVM contests here, but haven’t updated that list for some time.
Here’s the tale of my ghost story contest. I hope it inspires you all to keep writing.
Update: The winning stories from The Apparitionist contest are up on their site.
Published in the Tryon Daily Bulletin, November 8, 2017
I came to Tryon for Halloween to hear some ghost stories.
I hadn’t been to Tryon in nearly a year and a half—an unexpectedly long absence—but life doesn’t always go as planned.
I had an accident in January in Phoenix, broke my foot and my arm, and while I was recovering from those two surgeries, discovered I had breast cancer. (Go get those 3D mammograms, women friends. One saved my life.)
I couldn’t write more than a grocery list for months because of my broken arm, and even that much writing was painful, so you can imagine how sad I was when I found out about a ghost story competition at the Tryon Arts and Crafts School.
“We didn’t want to tell you about the contest,” said a friend in a phone call, “knowing you can’t write right now.”
I immediately went to TACS’ Facebook page and found the scoop on The Apparitionist, their national ghost story contest, and an exciting new tradition in Tryon’s literary scene.
Two hours later, I was icing my arm and reading the first draft of my contest entry. Thank you, TACS, for getting me back up on that horse. Yes, it hurt, but I conjured up a ghost I didn’t even know I had in me.
I knew the winning stories would be read aloud at TACS on Halloween night, and that planted the seed of a possible trip to Tryon. I was thrilled to find my story on the semi-finalists’ list, and then on the finalists’, and dared to hope a win would get me on a plane to North Carolina. Then it dawned on me: I don’t have to win a contest to go to Tryon. I don’t even have to have a reason other than I want to be there.
No, I didn’t win the contest, but no one could have felt more like a winner than I did sitting in my chair on Halloween night at TACS listening to actors reading the winning stories.
It was great to see the school buzzing with activity, and so great to see old friends and meet new ones. And I’m not sure which were more impressive–the stories or the actors reading them. Hats off to the staff at the school and especially to Kai Elijah Hamilton who seemed to be the head bee that made the contest buzz.
The preliminary judges were local writers and storytellers Dottie Jean Kirk, Lee Stockdale and Katie Winkler, and the finalists were judged by head honcho Jack Sholder whose impressive list of directing credits include Nightmare on Elm Street II. We are fortunate to have Mr. Sholder as our Asheville neighbor, and he’s the founding director of the Film and TV Production program at Western Carolina University where he teaches.
The first place story was “The Bargain” by Vicki Lane who has lived beside a Madison County graveyard for forty years, so probably had ghosts whispering in her ear as she wrote (is that cheating?). Nickengie Sampson blew us away with her performance, demonstrating why this story was the clear winner.
In second place was Joy Peng’s “Let’s Play,” perfectly and creepily read by Michelle Fleming who can be found doing marketing and PR for TFAC when she’s not on a stage. This was Joy Peng’s very first writing competition, so taking second place was an impressive achievement.
Steve Wong of Spartanburg County wrote “A Breach in the Night” which won third place and was read by Martha Hogenboom whose list of theater credits is longer than my broken arm. In full disclosure, Steve wrote an article about me in Life in Our Foothills in 2014, and made me seem really interesting, so I already knew he was a good writer.
The Heritage Award went to Polk County resident Robert Orr for “The Ghost of Three Pee Creek,” and was read by Miles Rice who proved that a story can be both scary and funny at the same time. Hey, what did you expect from a story with the word pee in the title?
It makes me happy to see on TACS’ website that they’ve already made the command decision to hold the contest again in 2018. Details will be posted in March, and the contest opens in April.
So you all have time to start noodling on your scary story, and can mark your calendars to be firmly planted in your seat at TACS next Halloween to be wowed by more winning stories and more talented storytellers. Hey, if I can write a story with a broken arm, what’s your excuse?
I can’t predict the future, but barring more traumatic accidents and cancer treatments, I know where I’ll be next Halloween: at Tryon Arts and Crafts School. I hope to see you there.
Every October I’m reminded of my favorite Halloween icon. Not that I need a reminder. Elvira has been a part of my life since January, 11, 1988, the day I auditioned to be her stand-in and photo double on the film, Elvira, Mistress of the Dark. Thank you to Bruce Birmelin, the set photographer, for this great shot of me working hard. And thanks to Elvira for many years of employment and friendship. I remain her biggest fan.
I was often a pretend bride. This was for Novias Magazine, shot by the fabulous Kim Canazzi. The designer was Norma LeNain. I loved her dresses so much, I chose one when it was my turn to be an actual bride.
I grayed prematurely, and when I was thirty-eight I decided to stop coloring my hair. My agent thought it was a mistake, saying casting directors would think I was older. I didn’t care how old they thought I was, as long as I worked. That agent dropped me, but I kept on working. I went from the bride to the mother of the bride overnight, and I was right: those checks cashed just the same.
My very first paying job in L.A. was for a music video for a song called “A Little TLC” on the Saturday the morning cartoon, Kidd Video in 1984. I’m on the right, cast as a new wave nurse by the director, Bud Schaetzle, who later cast me in several other videos. He made me a waltzing mannequin, a zombie, and directed my first on-screen kiss. It was always a pleasure to work for Bud, but I was particularly grateful for this first Hollywood gig.