The impetus for this piece was a contest my wife, Gere, set up with TW Williams and me. Basically, we had to write a short story for Halloween. We got writer Deven D. Atkinson to judge all three stories, which he did without knowing which piece belonged to which author. Deven picked Waiting to Pounce as the winner, but he thought at the time it was a Williams story. I take that as a big compliment.
I rather enjoy these story contests our little writers’ group engages in. TW once tossed out a series of unrelated elements — a hole, a pair of birds, a two-foot length of rope, maybe a koala, I forget — and challenged us to use them all in a short story. Mine was crap, Gere’s was hilarious, and I think TW eventually sold his.
The Halloween contest smacks of that winter in which Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin (later Shelley), Percy Bysshe Shelley, Lord Byron and others in got snowed in at lake Geneva in Switzerland. They spent their time reading German ghost stories, discussing science and philosophy and challenging each other to write supernatural tales. Young Mary wrote what would eventually become Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus.
Now, my little bit of fiction isn’t going to produce a pop culture icon or spark a bazillion movies. But it just goes to show that writers challenging one another to do weird things, and spending their time bashing their brains against the big questions and the big issues, is one very effective way to fertilize that field that grows stories. So argue, debate, question, challenge … and write.