I like challenges, don’t you? Well, that kind, too. But what I meant was imposed challenges. For instance, among my hidden talents, I am a quiltmaker. A quiltmaking challenge might include a hideously ugly fabric everyone in the group is required to incorporate into a project. Often, the challenge pieces are displayed in a show. The results are fascinating, even stunning.
Writing challenges can take different forms. When I attended the Squaw Valley Community of Writers Conference, one of the presenters, Janet Fitch, described her writing group. There, members would rotate the task of bringing one word. They would all write a piece incorporating that word and bring it to the next gathering. At one particular meeting, a member posed “wind”. Fitch began with that word, and the result was the best-selling novel White Oleander.
Publishing guru-diva-teacher Jane Friedman advocates that writers share their work on their blogs. To read an interesting article she wrote on the subject, click here. And while you’re at it, I suggest subscribing to her blog There Are No Rules. In that spirit, below you will find a short piece of mine that grew from a challenge in a workshop Charlotte McGuin Freeman led. We had been reading memoir vignettes such as comprises Abigail Thomas’s Safekeeping. Our assignment was to write either a memoir vignette or a fake memoir vignette. (A few of those fake ones around these days, am I right?) We weren’t to tell the group whether our memoir was real or embellished. This turned out to be great fun.
So, I ask you, who so well know the nature of my soul, is the following real or is it fake?
Bodywork by Deb Atwood
Just goes to show you can’t believe what you read. I am no motorcycle mama!
So you ogled a picture of me in the paper. So I’m perched on the back of a Harley. So, so.
Take it from me, I was never anyone’s mama.
Fact is, I ride solo. And getting tangled up in a brawl is not my idea of fun. Nope. I like my fights like my men—fair and hands on. Most times, I can stop a fight without throwing a punch just by peeling down to my tank top, though I’ve never figured out what does it—that tip of lace marking cleavage or my sixteen inch biceps. You weigh less than 225 pounds, rest assured I can bench-press you.
My friends love to go out with me—south of Market, West Oakland clubs, whatever. My enemies get a good look at me and head the other way. Guess that’s how I got the nickname: Detour Deb.
Not my style to brag, just wanted to let you know I ride backseat to nobody. That day in question, I was tooling home from the Las Vegas Natural Bobybuilding Championships—where I took second, if you must know—and pulled into Boomtown, just me and Fat Boy. Trouble with me is, I gotta take in lots of protein. Otherwise, with my regimen, I flop belly-side up, and that’s not something you want out on the highway, straddling 665 pounds of hog.
Boomtown’s a biker-friendly hangout, but still, I park out on the back 40 lot. No sense inviting scratches when Fat Boy’s strutting the original paint job.
When the gunshots cracked, I was in the checkout line holding my protein shake and a map I’d snagged to chart my next route, just standing there dreaming of Nationals. The mart was swarming with bikers and mamas on account of the Harley centennial. Tons more than usual hitting the road, doing this whole Easy Rider thing, maybe. Anyhow, the shots fly, and we duck and scramble and pour out of the doors onto this wooden sidewalk they got going around the place.
The snarl of hogs firing up is deafening, I can tell you. Everyone shoving to get out of the way. Or into the fight. Chaos.
And I’m looking, and here’s this guy struggling with his hog, totally panicked. His bike knocked down and pinned in all the pandemonium, and it was a real shame, too. I’d noticed it earlier—cherry paint job. Shinier than it had a right to be, but isn’t that always the way? Like at my gym, the tightest spandex on the mushiest bodies. So this guy’s struggling with his machine and bullets are streaking. It was just a good idea to hightail it out of there.
You guessed it. I stopped. He was lucky that number one, I keep a cool head under fire, and second, my deadlift pull is 385 pounds. That, and his ride was a Hugger, a lightweight, IMHO. Found out later it weighed 486 pounds. Where are the judges when you need them? But to give this man credit, he could probably pull the remaining 101 pounds. This guy was so grateful he asks can he give me a lift.
Ha, ha, give me a lift. I had to laugh at that one. So I said he could truck me over to Fat Boy. When I climbed on the back of his bike, some idiot had the balls to shoot a pic, and that’s the photo you saw with the stupid caption: Bodybuilding Champion Turns Motorcycle Mama. You’d think they had enough stuff to write with the brawl going on.
Just not me to take a back seat, as I said, but I can’t say I minded the scenery in this case. The man’s backside was none too shabby—black leather vest all studded with silver and a thick ponytail. He wasn’t my type, but now and then I do like to get a good hank of tail between my teeth.