I have a story in the finals at an anthology group I've not been published in before. Thin Threads is the name of the series--a la Chicken Soup. My story "College Isn't For Girls" made it to the final cut stage, and when I received the letter telling me so, it also said that three of the selected stories would be in line for a special prize and recognition.
Yesterday, the three top winners were announced. First prize went to a woman who wrote about the crossing guard at her elementary school. She painted a picture of a kind, thoughtful woman who helped children across a busy street as they went to and from school. The writer used enough sensory details to make the reader a part of the scene; she wrote with the ability to warm the reader's heart. So yes, she deserved the prize, I think.
But as I read, I became more and more amazed. The woman lived in Oak Park and attended Hatch Elementary School. She had to cross Ridgeland Ave to get to school and then back home again. I know the town, the school and the street she wrote about because I also grew up in Oak Park only a few blocks away from Ridgeland Ave. I didn't attend Hatch School, but I knew kids who did. What are the odds that two women who grew up in the same town, even close to the same area of town, would be submitting stories to the same anthology? It's definitely one of those small world things.
The funny thing is that I had a wonderful crossing guard who helped me across Oak Park Ave. every day, too. He was a retired policeman and wore his uniform proudly. I often showed him some treasure that I'd made in school and looked forward to his big smile and the pat on the head he often gave. I've pondered writing a memory type of story about Mr. Rawl, but I hadn't gotten around to it. Too bad--I might have won a prize!
Meanwhile, I'm still waiting to hear about the final list of stories that will be in the Thin Threads book.