Thursday, July 08, 2010

Umass Love Stories

Spurred on by one of my colleagues who is also a UMass grad, I decided to write up my "UMass love story" and enter it into the contest the UMass magazine was having back around Valentine's Day of this year. I thought it came out okay and I believe it's an interesting enough tale and I suppose I shouldn't expect that it deserved to be one of the top 30 but despite my wife's insistence that my ego just can't handle the reality (and she's probably right to an extent), I still think something is up.

Read the grand prize winner here:

First place

I dunno. Seems kinda blah to me so maybe my ego can be assuaged by the possibility that the folks judging these stories have lame tastes. But then the second-place one is pretty good:

Second place

I mean, you can see the twist from a mile away but at least there's some juicy descriptiveness in the language and the writer did have a nice hook.

Now read the piece I submitted:

Although I try to keep away from cliché in writing and although I like to think of myself as more a realist than romantic, the simple truth is that I fell in love at first sight with my wife of twelve years (Shelly Ricci ’98) when she stepped into Shakespeare class in Bartlett Hall in September 1992. For the next few months, I remember noticing consistently late Shelly often sneaking into class and immediately sucking on her asthma inhaler, having had to scurry across the chilly campus from her Sylvan dorm room to make that 9:05 AM start time. I eventually worked up the nerve to introduce myself and ask her out, only to find out that she also initially found me attractive but erroneously assumed I was not interested in women.

The reason for this is rather ironic. You see, my dining hall of choice in those days was the vegetarian Basics, which had only one entrance. As a result, my best buddy Jason and I would sit next to each other so that both of us could clearly see and comment to each other upon all the cute, hip girls as they entered. Obviously, he and I were completely oblivious to the fact that by not sitting across from each other but rather side-by-side that cute, hip girls like Shelly might figure Jason and I were ourselves already a couple!

Anyway, after a stroll through a deserted campus during Super Bowl Sunday festivities followed by a real date at a vegetarian restaurant in Northampton, Shelly and I fell in love with each other.

Seventeen years later, we live in Hardwick, MA where I work as the English department head at Eagle Hill High School, Shelly teaches culinary arts part-time there and we are parents to Hannah, 8, Owen, 3, and Spencer, a four-month old baby whose middle name is Bartlett, after the UMass building in which I first laid eyes upon the love of my life.

-Anthony Westcott ‘93

Re-reading mine now, I suppose it could've been much better, particularly if I had replaced some of the blander background stuff with more plot & descriptiveness. Either way, if you scan through the 25 other pieces that got published on the website (but not in the print magazine), I think you'll see mine is certainly not inferior to most of these. (Side note: the story by "Foley" was written by the widow of my good friend and UMass roommate Stefan; in fact, she mentions both the play that Stefan and I co-wrote and the day that he broke up with his prior fiancee, which I still remember, as Stefan took me on a long car ride out to his hometown to have someone to pour his heart out to- on that drive, I told him he had the immense female population of UMass to consider and to let the fiancee go, which perhaps helped convince him to start up the romance with Megan).

Other love stories

You see, I wondered when writing my piece whether the hook of my story, being erroneously perceived as gay, was just too controversial for publication. And now that I see that each and every love story that was published is between a man and a woman, now I wonder whether there might be something to that, after all.

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