Note to my teenage self circa 1996 when I was on the competitive poetry- and prose-reading circuit for high schoolers in rural Oregon: Have all the fun you want doing this because, yes, it turns out this is a life skill you will use in your job as a lawyer in the European offices of a major international corporation in 23 years’ time.
This week was the annual summit for our European books business. Everyone came to Luxembourg for a week of meetings, seminars, and one disco themed party. As a team-building activity, we were divided into teams and asked to write one short story per team in a sort of mad-lib style: Using only some very basic prompts (genre, setting, brief description of protagonist and antagonist), each team member was assigned to write one segment of the story–completely independently of everyone else. Then the pieces were placed in order, lightly edited for (very minimal) coherence, and then submitted for judging. The winning piece was to be announced at the end of the week.
At lunch today the judging committee asked if I would do a dramatic reading of the winning story after it was announced. Apparently someone on the committee thought I might be a closeted thespian. I laughed and said I’d give it a go.
They gave me the story and I read through it a few times to see what I could make of it. Not surprisingly it was completely ridiculous and only just barely hung together as a narrative. But there was a sexy hero (who I decided would have a posh English accent) and a scheming gay camel (who got an outrageous accent that was probably something between Spanish and Bulgarian). In other words, I figured I could make it work.
The odds of success weren’t exactly in my favour. I was put at the very end of the day on the last day — we had just heard from our extremely charismatic senior executive, everyone was restless and hungry after sitting all day in a conference room, and I was the last thing standing between them and dinner, drinks, and the disco party.
So I went all out and, well, I basically crushed it. The laughter started rolling in after the first line and by the time I finished (with our hero riding into the sunset with his camel), I had the biggest applause of any session during the entire week.
Maybe all those high school speech competitions paid off after all. 😜