It’s worth a try

Writing can be more difficult than it seems, at times. This is always surprising to me, especially if the subject is something that I’ve already experienced before – non-fiction instead of fiction. I already know the ending, the beginning, the order of events and the main points I want to expound upon. I’m pretty sure, usually, that I know where the piece is going to go. The difficult thing is making your experience seem like something that the average reader is going to give a damn about. You can tell the story as well as you can, but unless you make it interesting, who’s going to care?

Kerrie pointed something out in the newspaper this past Sunday that brews these thoughts inside my head again. Apparently, there’s a series of books on vacation mishaps, called I Should Have Stayed Home, published by RDR Books. Currently they are looking for stories to include in their I Should Have Stayed Home: Food and I Should Have Stayed Home: Hotels collections. My wife, who is forever coaxing me to actually do something with this writing hobby, suggested I should send something in. I, who am forever pushing myself away from anything that would gain myself any notoriety, figured that I should actually give this a chance. Kerrie would like to see me succeed in something that I enjoy. I guess I would too.

According to the Argus Leader, “The story must be true, should be between 500 and 2000 words, and should describe an awful experience about a hotel stay of rood consumed on the road – although it’s fine to have a humorous perspective on your ordeal.” The winner’s story will be published in the corresponding collection, a series that has held the words of Paul Theroux and Rick Steeves, and will recieve either a $150 hotel stay or $100 in restaraunt gift certificates. Seems like a pretty cheap way to get a great story, Kerrie thought.

“Sounds easy!” I said to myself.

Then I started to write.

And I stopped.

And I started again.

Yup — Stopped again.

I chose the Hotel Radnor in London, and while it wasn’t a horrible hotel, it was a weird, poorly run, cramped and slightly run down hotel. The problem, though, is that I don’t remember much about it. It’s been six years since I stayed there, and all I really have to go on is our memory and one picture. I can’t seem to find it anywhere on the internet (there is a Hyde Park-Radnor Hotel, but while it’s in the same area, it certainly is not the same hotel) and I’m guessing that it’s probably no longer a hotel.

Without these few details, I’m afraid that my story may not be “true.” I’ve already conceded that there will be some major embellishments, but I’m struggling with some of the details. I’d like it to be as truthful as possible, but my mental image may not coincide with the actual hotel.

Additionally, this has to be well written. That takes time – a far cry from the stuff I jam out onto this page daily. This is a new experience for me. I have never written anything that could possibly be released to the purchasing public, so I want it to be perfect. I want it to be good.

Still, I have until June 15th to email my submission. I have written part of the opening, which I present to you now:

We stepped into the front foyer of a building much like every other building on the block. Telling this hotel apart from any other random establishment on the street was difficult; every building was white, crumbling slightly from generations of English history, with identical steps and railings, each front door similar enough to create panic after a drunken night on the town. Inside we encountered a hallway, narrow and cramped, lined on the left by a series of closed wooden doors, each leading to what we assumed was a hotel room, and on the right by a dining room door and an opening not unlike those seen in theatre lobbies. The floor was old, giving way under our bodies just enough to emit a low squeak, thus insuring that we could not leave undetected, if the opportunity ever arose, without first paying our bill. I immediately felt a little claustrophobic and searched around for escape routes while Kerrie spoke with the gentleman behind the desk.

How much of this is true is irrelevant, I guess. This is my first shot at being published, so I’m going to take it seriously.

Wish me luck.

This was lovingly handwritten on April 26th, 2005