Contest: What Would You Say to Your Eight-Year-Old Self?

One Hot January, a new Second Wind Publishing release by J. Conrad Guest, deals with the science fiction elements of time travel and alternate realities. Much of yesterday’s science fiction has become today’s reality—we’ve put men on the moon, satellites into orbit, and routinely launch space shuttles. We have laser technology and personal communication devices (cell phones). Are alternate realities created each and every day, the result of the choices we make or fail to make? Might time travel one day be possible?

If you could write a letter and send it back through time to yourself, at age eight, what would you say to your younger self? J. Conrad Guest will select the best ones and award those letter writers inscribed copies of One Hot January.

You can post your letter here if you’d like others to read it, or you can send it to: secondwindpublishing@gmail.com. Either way, you have the same chance of winning. Hurry, you only have until April 16, 2011 to submit your letter.

Good luck (and no fair traveling ahead to sneak a peek at the winners)!

***

In One Hot January, Joe January, an emotionally aloof private investigator from the South Bronx, gets more than he bargains for when he uncovers this seemingly impossible plot of time travel and alternate realities by grudgingly agreeing to help a pretty young woman locate her missing father. Her father, a Professor of Archeology from Columbia College, must prevent the secret location of Hitler’s body, which lies in a cryogenic state awaiting a cure for cancer, from falling into the wrong hands. By the end of the novel, January is thrust one hundred years into the future, where he must survive on a century-old sagacity as he endeavors to find his way back to his own time and the woman he loves but lacked the courage to tell. The tale concludes in January’s Thaw, to be released later this year.

Click here to read the first chapter of: One Hot January

15 Comments

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15 responses to “Contest: What Would You Say to Your Eight-Year-Old Self?

  1. Dear Sheila,

    You know how you think numbers are the only thing that always stay the same. Well, you’re wrong. You think a year’s always the same length? You think you can measure the side of a book with a ruler? It’s all going to look so different one day; even the words won’t sound right. But here’s the thing–if you’re “just” telling a story you’ll get to use the old words; people still read. But numbers; they’re going to betray you when your hair’s gone gray.

    Sheila

  2. The first thing I think is the lakewater. How different it is.

    An hour ago, it was so greenish you couldn’t see the bottom when we stood, shivering and skinny, in our too-big-but-trust-me-you’ll-grow-into-it suits on the narrow slice of beach. Twenty-four third-graders, dancing with anticipation – and also to keep warm – waited to learn to swim at the edge of the Fireman’s Lake in Black Lake, New York.

    Looking down on top of the brackish water, you couldn’t see a thing.

    Looking up from under it, though, it is almost as startling as the experience of drowning is: a whole world unto itself, secretly existing the whole time we trod upon it. Fish dart back and forth, oblivious to me, plants sway gracefully as I flail my arms helplessly. This is their undiscovered country; I am the intruder, and they don’t even have to attack me to kill me.

    Just visiting, I am going to die.

    The second thing I notice is how old I am. Eight. Actually, eight and one half years, exactly: it’s the eighteenth today, and my birthday will come – or would have come – in six months. I’m good at math – at least, I was, I keep correcting myself, because I am now thinking: this is how I die. I will die at eight and a half, only that’s not what they will say. They will say I was eight, because that’s what grownups ALWAYS say. They never notice things like “half.”

    Just like they never notice me. Which, up until lately, has suited me just fine – the less they notice, the less likely they are to decide “someone better go fetch me a switch – and it best be the right size, because you DO NOT want ME to go get one…”

    Up until lately, when we’ve been spending so much time at Daddy’s brother’s house. It’s been cool, because my uncle has these ridiculously old magazines with nothing but stories in them by all these really old guys, I guess: weird exaggerated names, like “Amazing Science Fiction,” and stuff, written by people I never heard of, like Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, Arthur C. Clarke – but they’re really good. He’s got stacks of them in his attic, so when we go there, I sneak off and read them.

    But lately, it’s been horrible. My cousins are teenagers. Now I don’t want to go up there anymore at all. They’re boys. They want to do boy things. They make me to do things with them. When I told them I didn’t want to, they said I had to. Or else they’d tell my father.

    They say my father will kill me if he ever finds out.

    I’m pretty sure he would.

    Except, I’m dying NOW.

    “Except you’re not.”

    Suddenly, I hear something besides the whooshing sound of water in my ears – but that can’t be, really, because all I see is fish, and everybody knows fish can’t talk, except in that really stupid movie about that guy that turned into a fish because he loved fish so much…

    “Holy shizzle, I REMEMBER that movie…”

    It’s that voice again, only NOW I get that it’s in my head. So I figure: this must be what happens when you die.

    You go crazy first.

    Okay.

    You also make up words like “shizzle.”

    “You’re not crazy. You’re also not going to die.”

    Now – okay, now – I recognize there’s an actual direction this oddball voice is coming from.

    If I had any air at all, I’d kind of laugh, considering I’m actually being distracted from death by drowning, but then I think: maybe that’s the point of going crazy before you “formally” die. Kind of considerate of the universe, I’m thinking.

    “I’m over here – but I only have a minute before they come to rescue you.”

    “They’re going to rescue me? TOTALLY cool. Wait: How do you know they’re coming to rescue me? Wait: are you a … I don’t know? Rescuer?”

    It’s then I realize I’m talking back to my craziness. At least, I am in my head.

    “No. Well, kind of. In a way. I know it’s a very stupid thing to say, but I SO totally know what you’re going through right now.”

    “Are YOU dead?”

    “No – and you aren’t either. But I DO know how you feel – and I NEVER say that, trust me. For instance, I know you feel like you have NO control over how you’re moving around right now; all you’re trying to do is get any air, any way you can. But I’m headed your way – think you can swing yourself a LITTLE bit sideways?”

    “If I’m going to do anything, I’d REALLY rather swing myself UP? Toward the AIR?”

    But then she’s there, this woman, this grownup woman, with all her clothes on, but not even wet, and breathing just fine. And then this grownup woman, with all her clothes on, but not even wet, puts her arms around me for a minute, then whispers: “Shush,” really quietly in my ear, exactly the way my mom does when she’s being really really nice, like when I’m sick, or when she’s in a really good mood – JUST like my mom, like no one else does – weird how she knew how to do it JUST like Mommy does, you know?

    And I calm right down, and then this grownup woman, with all her clothes on, but not even wet, BLOWS – real breath – right in my face – which, if you don’t know, and I didn’t, makes you – you can’t even help it – take a short breath.

    Which of course clued me in to the fact I could breathe. There. Underwater. With this grown woman, with all her clothes on, but not even wet.

    Then I am very, very scared, because now I am for sure going to die.

    “Don’t be.”

    “What?”

    “Scared.”

    “What?”

    “Scared. I know you’re scared. I know everything you’re feeling right now.”

    I have no idea what to say.

    “You have no idea what to say to me.”

    I look, for the first time, at this person. She looks really, really nice, actually, and she looks like she really, really likes, me, actually, which is a weird look for someone who is actually looking at me, which, as I mentioned, hardly anyone actually does, actually.

    “I AM looking at you. And I DO actually LIKE you. A LOT. And I’ve come here to tell you three things. They’re very important, so don’t forget, okay?”

    All I do is nod. There is something very familiar about her, almost like she could be someone in my family or something, but she is very kind of pretty, and very put-together, if you know what I mean – if you can think of someone underwater as still being all put-together, that is – so it sort of seems impossible she could be in my family – but I can’t put my finger on it.

    “This is the first thing. You are important. You really are important.”

    I must be making a face, because she frowns a little. “Yes, you are. EVERYONE is. Everyone, from the sweetest, littlest kid, to the oldest, nastiest person. So that HAS to include you, right?”

    When she puts it that way…

    “The second thing: I know how bad your life seems to suck right now? It won’t always suck so hard. Hang on. Don’t lose hope. Everything in your life will get better, and it will get better because of YOU. You can make it better.”

    Me? I’m thinking to myself: now I know I am absolutely crazy.

    “You aren’t crazy. I know you’re a kid now, but you won’t be forever. Hang on to hope, keep working hard, and you will be okay.”

    If I don’t drown.

    “This is the third most important thing, okay?”

    It’s either listen or drown, so I kind of really, actually, have no choice.

    “When you are thirty-six, you will be offered a job at a corporation across the country from where you live. They will not want to tell you anything about this job until you are already hired, moved, and cleared for security. You will not want to take this job, because you will be scared, nervous, and freaked out. Be brave and take it anyway.”

    “Why should I take it if it’s so scary?”

    “For one thing? It turns out it’s a pretty cool job.”

    “Okay…”

    “For another? If you don’t take it, we’ll drown when we’re eight years old. I need to go; your lifeguard is coming. Keep calm, okay? Remember: Important. Hope. Brave.”

    “Um… got it.”

    “One more thing?”

    “Okay…”

    “You never will learn to swim. But you’ll learn a hell of a lot about quantum mechanics.”

    “Mechanics? Like fixing things?”

    “You’ll see, kid.”

    The world suddenly fills with air, and blinding sunlight, and the swift, strong arms under me of the lifeguard, and my heart hammers as I am reborn into hope, bravery, and purpose.

    # # #

  3. The way you feel right now — small, scared, pretty much alone when Mom’s not beside you? Well, that’s the way it’s going to be forever. Get used to it. You think growing up will make everything easier; that the answers will be revealed and there won’t be as many people telling you what to do. But nothing changes, ever. You will always feel impotent against fate.

  4. Dear Sweet Caroline,

    I know the secret torment you feel every weekday when you wake up in the morning. I know that your schooldays are miserable because reading doesn’t come easily to you, and everything seems to revolve around reading. I know how you suffer because nobody understands that although you try so hard, you always feel like giving up. I also know the panic you feel in class when the teacher makes each child stand up in turn to read a paragraph out loud. I understand how you feel, I know how you dread your turn, turn red and stumble at each word; I know how your palms sweat and your voice trembles. I know when you finally get through your long, torturous paragraph that you have no idea what its about because you were concentrating so hard on each word. I know that when you have finished reading you dare not look up, as everyone has turned round to look at you, and I know that feeling you have when you finally sit down again and your friend next to you immediately starts the next paragraph; you feel like crying. You feel like crying, you feel like crying.
    Why is it that she can read with such fluidity, you ask yourself, and you cant, It seems so unfair.

    But Caroline, sweet child, whatever they say to you, don’t worry. You have a gift that none of them have! You can write! You love to write, so write to your heat’s content! Don’t worry about the spelling, or that Mrs Smith reads out your essays in class pronouncing the miss spelled words as you wrote them. I know how you suffer and hide behind the lid of your desk when the class responds with a good laugh. But think about it, Caroline, she is reading your essays out to the class because they are interesting and well written! She tells the class that all the time, doesn’t she? She tells them that you would have got an A every time had it not been for the spelling!
    Caroline, one day you will be able to write on a super kind of typewriter that corrects your spelling automatically! You wont believe me but it is true! Then you will be able to write books and tell the world everything you know about history and ancient lands through your stories! How great will that be! Young teenagers will love your adventures and perhaps they will be reading them in school! So have confidence, Caroline, and write!

    Love from your true friend,

    Caroline

  5. 1972
    Dear Karen.
    I see you walking alone as kids don’t accept you. You have glasses. Your teeth are all over the place and you have a really bad boy’s hair cut. Makes me wonder why mom doesn’t think you fit in, well duh –yeah all things considered you are bully bait.
    Speaking of which, watch the idiots down the street; they are jerks on the best of days. On bad days they can be hell on wheels. There is one little boy that won’t try to knock you off the bike with the training wheels. Stick with him kiddo, as Don will be a great friend in the future.
    I am giving you a friendly heads up. You are going through some painful stuff right now at home and you can’t tell anyone about it for a few years. Don’t trust your best friend Leslie with this in grade 5. She can’t be trusted and this will come back and bite your butt.
    My advice to you in the future is to try and develop a good sense of humour. You will need it.
    One day this pain you feel will go away, replaced by other stresses and headaches. The ugly duckling stage will fade. You won’t ever be a model but you will be a cute teenager.
    Your teen years will be full of family issues and your parents will think you are a pain in the butt. You will do some dumb things:
    1. Don’t borrow that money from moms’ purse just because someone stole yours and you are too afraid to admit you were ripped off. Tell her what happened and maybe she might loan the money to you.
    2. Don’t listen to your best buddy when she suggests you drive her dad’s car out of a snow bank. Get one of the 3 licensed drivers in the house to do it for you. You killed a neighbour’s fence; the tree in the backyard nearly hit the Cadillac behind you and almost hit the side of a house. The loss of 2 points off your license and a 2 year suspension from getting it really was not worth the efforts to keep things quiet.
    3. Ignore the verbal abuse your dad will dole out. He loves you but just doesn’t relate well to you. Being nasty is his only way of coping with you, and he will apologise eventually.
    You will have a child with your high school sweetheart. The marriage will last 9 years and be full of challenges, but you will get out of it and realize that he, the daddy will be a decent friend.
    Treat your daughter well, and she too will be a great source of support. Play nice as she gets to pick the nursing home you will end up in. Her teen years are going to be angst ridden.
    Your mother is the greatest source of support you have; treat her right too. She will be there when the first marriage falls apart. Mom will also be the biggest fan of your second husband.
    Your second marriage will be great as your future in-laws are very nice people and although he has trouble with expressing his emotions Jimmy really does love you.
    You are going to be a writer with a great sense of humour so sharpen that pencil now.
    That’s all I am going to tell you.
    Enjoy life. The ride is bumpy but well worth the trip.
    Love
    Your older wiser and funny self

  6. christinehusom

    Summers don’t last forever. Remain honest and true. Continue to have fun as you grow older.

  7. My oh so curious and innocent self…

    The world, as the cliche would say, is your oyster but since you will become a writer you’ll want to avoid all of this.

    Yes, you read that right – you want to keep up the writing as it’s something you’ll always love. And speaking of love… you’ll have years of heartache and confusion but you’ll always know that the man you need and who needs you will find you… actually you’ll find him but I won’t spoil the magic.

    And always remember that your family will remain constant – they may come and go but those you’re related to will always be the same. Be yourself, always, even when you think it’s best to be someone else be true.

    And have fun… as the adults will tell you – don’t grow up too fast. I did and I know you won’t want to.

    Until we meet again…

    Your much less innocent but still learning and wandering self.

  8. Therese Daigle

    Little one…. I know your very scared about never being able to go home again, or not recognizing your mom when you see her.
    Because you’ve been here for such a long time. A year feels like an eternity to you. Locking yourself in the bathroom caused quite a panic all over the hospital and in the near future bathroom doors will be built differently in order to prevent this from happening again.But don’t worry your mom has not forgotten you and she is on her way to get you.
    The operation was a success and your eyes will heal completely. I know how much you hate to wear your glasses but you will need to wear them from now on. I wish you could understand the anguish your causing your parents each time you throw your glasses in the garbage. Caring for ten children and two adults is very difficult on a lumberjack’s salary. But they know you need your glasses to go to school, so they will keep buying them and praying that you will stop soon.
    Your life is about to change dramatically. Your mom is going to leave. And you will be separated from your family and friends very soon. I don’t want you to worry because you will be well cared for where your going. Don’t feel like your a burden or don’t belong because they love you. Even if you don’t know them they are part of your family.
    You will choose to go back home with your Dad when the time comes.
    The road ahead of you is harder that you can ever imagine. My heart aches for you. How I wish your journey would be lighter and happier. Even if I tried to explain it all to you, you are much to young to understand. It would only cause you great anguish and worry. The only thing I wish you could really understand right now is don’t be afraid. Because you’re never alone. God will protect and care for you each and every day.
    And you are gong to walk right down that rough, dirty old road, through to the meadow on the other side. There you will find beautiful little flowers everywhere that will give you great joy and happiness. The waterfall in the forest will be flowing with drops of pure liquid diamonds. You will gather them and keep close to your heart forever, and know that you are truly loved.
    Always take good care of yourself little one,
    from the one who got you through and found healing on the way.♥

  9. Thanks to all who have submitted their stories. We’ll continue to accept submissions through April 16, and I’ll select winners, to be posted a day or two later.

  10. Last two days to enter this contest to win and inscribed copy of One Hot January. I see I have my work cut out for me and likely will be unable to select just one—which means … that’s right … multiple winners!

  11. Okay, three pieces struck me as worthy … Sheila Deeth, your piece was simple and elegant and contained a lot of depth and hidden meaning. Well done.

    Jersey Jack, yours had a certain melancholia that moved me—it’s true, life beats one down and it’s often a challenge, right up until one draws one’s last breath.

    Sarah Butland, your words of wisdom ring true: life is filled with ups and downs; don’t let the negative keep you down and ride the highs with modesty.

    All three were worthy of winning a copy of One Hot January. Please forward your mailing address to Second Wind and I’ll send your inscribed copies to you ASAP.

    Thanks to you and all who submitted your letters!

    J.

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