Writing myself into the story


“We don’t want to see you Monday,” they told me last week. “Don’t come in.”

It’s fair week here in Indiana County, and our readers have come to expect the daily fair story we’ve provided for years. Monday was my day at the fair, and my assignment was simple: find a story at the fair, write it, file it.

I walked past the cross-saw competition stand right away, one of the first booths of the fair, right next to the dunking booth and across from the fire safety trailer. Several sweaty men with bush-beards, jagged teeth, and huge smiles were strapping a log tight to raisers on a rusty flat-bed trailer pulled by a minivan, or unloading two-handled saws.

“I want to make my story be about you,” I told them. They looked confused. “Now HE can tell you a story,” one told me, laughing. The man in question laughed too, but said nothing. But it was obvious when the man in charge walked over.

“She wants to ask us questions,” one told him, and he led me over to weather-worn wood benches.

I could ask him anything I wanted and I could write my story about them, but I had to try my hand at the two-man saw. “We’ll find you a partner,” he promised, grinning widely.

Trying a cut before the competition started wasn’t good enough; he paired me with his 15-year-old nephew, had me compete alongside his friends and family who’d been doing it for years — all muscled and rough-looking but with quick, open smiles and a sort of reckless fun about them.

Back in the office that night, arm still quivering from it’s 51 second exertion, I stared at the blinking cursor and tried to start writing. But the words were stiff, unnatural.

Until I wrote myself into the story. Into the lede, actually.

And that’s how it ran on Tuesday, and we all agreed that it worked. Because it’s a fair story, about experiences like smells and sweat and salty grease and jangling music and sweetly-sour manure and sun and dust making you sneeze and the rough grate of saw teeth over hard maple wood as new friends cheer you on just for trying.

Some stories just need a personal perspective.

(My story’s posted here: what do you think? Does it work? Or is it too distracting to put myself in the story?

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2 Comments

Filed under Notebook sketches

2 responses to “Writing myself into the story

  1. Way to go Heather!If this reporting job doesn’t work out maybe sawing could pay for the house…. or maybe you could build a new house in the cold north land;perhaps the McGatlins’ could use your help.It’s good to have more than one skill.

    Really good job!

  2. Lisa

    I think it works. I think it would have been hard to write this one too stiffly, it wouldn’t have been right for a fair story.

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