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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Sewing (02/22/07)

TITLE: Gold STAR Award


Wendy sat uncomfortably on a straight-backed chair. That morning she had decided to put away her husband’s trousers which had constantly needed altering. Cancer had reduced his size dramatically, and it broke her heart with every pair she stitched. After his death she needed a new project, a new direction.

“Ms Lawson, you can go in now.”

Wendy’s head jerked toward the direction of the receptionist, who nodded for her to go in.

Shoving a handful of material into her large handbag, she entered the room. Colin Appleby must have been the world’s tallest college president. He towered over her tiny, four-foot-eleven, slender body like a lamppost.

“Hello, um… Ms Lawson,” he said, referring briefly to his notes, “welcome to our college. Please, sit down.” He closed the door and directed her to a leather chair. “Ms Lawson,—or would you prefer that I call you Wendy?”

“Not at all,” she managed.

“It’s not often we have someone as…um…er…”

“It’s okay to say I’m old, Mr. Appleby. After all, I’m old enough to be your mother.”

“Please Mother, call me Colin. I feel ridiculous enough as it is. Why on earth do you want to start a college course now? Dad’s only been dead four months, for goodness sake.”

“Would you prefer I remarried or begin a sewing class?”

Colin sighed. “No, I guess not.”

“Well then, let’s get on with it. I’ve always wanted to do something in Literature.”

“Well, at least that’s a fairly sedate subject,” he replied.

“Sedate? What do you think; I’m going to nod off in one of your lectures? Besides, I’ve also decided to join the gym. I see there’s a vacancy for a volunteer, and don’t look at me like that. My instructor’s license is still valid and I could do with the exercise.”

“All right, here’s the list of classes you’ll be attending this semester. I’ll be teaching your Latin class on Wednesdays and Fridays. Professor Steven Carmichael, Dad’s replacement, will be marking your assignments—to keep everything above board. He’s also been widowed recently and I’ve asked him to give you a tour of the campus. Any questions?”

She pointed to a trophy behind her son. “Yes, one; what do I need to do to earn that?”

Colin turned to face a large gold, star-shaped trophy. “That—is Dad’s Memorial Trophy; our ‘Gold STAR Award.’ A replica will be presented for the first time at this year’s graduation ceremony. If you want to earn one, Mother, you’ll have to work hard over the next four years.”


Six months later, a notice appeared in the college paper and on bulletin boards across campus.


The Student Lobby Group is pleased to announce their new president,
Wendy Lawson-Appleby, affectionately known as, ‘Mother.’ This is
the first time a freshman has held this position.

Student Profile: Wendy’s favorite subject is Latin. Her ambition is to
replace her Latin teacher by the time she graduates. She’s recently
introduced a popular ‘Sewing Club’ for students and staff.

You can find our new president in the gym on Tuesday and Thursday
mornings. However, we warn you to be early, as our membership is
the highest on record.


Wendy stood nervously at the end of the stage remembering: the first six months had been the hardest. She had missed her husband dearly—and still did, at times. Study and sewing had helped her ease some memories and sew new ones. She smoothed out her hand-sewn graduation gown with pride. Professor Steven Carmichael winked at her when the next name was announced.

“Wendy Lawson-Appleby!”

The auditorium erupted in applause and whistles. It was the most thrilling moment of her life. She shook Colin’s hand before accepting the rolled-up diploma. She faced the audience and waved before stepping down to join her class.

Following the last presentation, President Appleby moved to the microphone. “And now… for our ‘Gold STAR Award,’ which is presented to the Valedictorian of the senior class. This year’s award goes to…'Wendy Lawson-Appleby’.”

The standing ovation continued, unrestrained, for several minutes. As she accepted the trophy, Wendy saw the admiration in her son’s face. Graduates threw their caps in the air. Then the man who had shown her around campus that first day, her own professor Steven, ignored protocol and gave Wendy a big hug. With her four year sewing project finally completed, she could concentrate on the next—her wedding dress.

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This article has been read 1093 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Marilee Alvey03/01/07
This is a super story with a feel good ending. This gal's got spunk. She's got moxie! What a testimony to all who think they're too old. I'm proud of the old girl....and I'm proud of you, too. Nice job! Keep it up. I want to see more from you!
julie wood03/01/07
I really enjoyed this story--great dialogue and colorful characters--I could see and hear them together with their contrasting sizes and personalities. Beautifully vivid descriptions! Moving message, too.

One thing puzzled me, however. Is Colin supposed to be Wendy's son? In some parts of the dialogue he sounds as though he is, in other parts he doesn't. This had me really confused!
Pat Guy 03/01/07
Okay - so this gave me chills. I loved how you took us effortlessly through the different stages of her education there at the college, and I loved the son's attitiude - sedate indeed! (sounds like mine!)

I loved the format, dialogue and how you captured the different moments. I REALLY enjoyed this!
Sara Harricharan 03/01/07
What a gold star entry! I love the character of Wendy, so loveable, I like that she didn't sit back and wait, but charged ahead with things that she needed to do to make a difference. You trick me with the twist that that her son was the one she was waiting to see! Very clever, one teeny tiny thing, the sentence of when he was taller than her sounded sort of awkward to me, maybe rephrase it to something like, instead of saying slender body, maybe say slender figure, or something? Just my own little opinion, Otherwise, I very much enjoyed this. It has a lot of heart ^_^
Elizabeth Baize03/03/07
You did an exceptional job with this entry! It is one of my favorites that I have read so far. I was going to say it gave me chills, and then saw that someone else had already said that!
Allison Egley 03/03/07
Oh, this was good. I know I always admired the older women in my college classes. I, however, was also confused about whether Colin was actually her son. As has been mentioned, in some places it seemed like he was, but the last names were completely different. Great story over all though. I enjoyed it.
Allison Egley 03/04/07
Oops... I got a bit confused there. I forgot the son's last name was Appleby. I think I thought Colin was his last name, not his first, even though you told us it was his first name. Don't worry. It all makes sense now. :-D
Jan Ackerson 03/04/07
You did a really good job on both dialog and characterization here! Makes you wonder how such a spunk gal raised such a stuffed shirt. Really well-realized characters.

The only suggestion I'd have would be more plot development in place of the posted "notice," which didn't really advance the plot much. That's purely personal preference, though, and nothing major.

You made these people very real, and this is a strong entry.
Debbie Sickler03/05/07
I was a little confused about the relationship at first too, but I like how you showed the struggle of the son who was trying to be professional with his own mom. I also liked the transitions of time the way you showed them. :)
Jacquelyn Horne03/05/07
It's all been said! But this is a good article. It kept me reading because I went to college as an older student. My husband, however, is still living and very supportive. Liked all of this story. Great job.
Betty Castleberry03/06/07
Wow, just wow. I loved every word in this story, and by the end, you had me sniffling. Excellent!
Joanne Sher 03/06/07
What a neat story - love your characterization.
James Clem 03/06/07
Well, I had no trouble figuring out he was her son - the word "dad" was a big clue. (?)

Please note two dialogue responses seem inappropriate (Be careful when you're rewriting.):
> "Ms Lawson,—or would you prefer that I call you Wendy?”

“Not at all,” she managed. and
“Would you prefer I remarried or begin a sewing class?”

Colin sighed. “No, I guess not.”
James Clem 03/06/07
Oh - and I enjoyed the story. :-)
Verna Cole Mitchell 03/06/07
I really enjoyed the story. The plot was easy to follow, and the characters were memorable. Great job!
Joanne Malley03/06/07
Wendy's the kind of character one can route for! Your story did her justice and your ability created great characters and story line. Good Job! Blessings, Jo
Linda Watson Owen03/06/07
I wholeheartedly agree with all the posts! This is such a feel good story! Yay Rah Wendy! You go, girl! LOL! : )
Val Clark03/06/07
An engaging story about a woman who keeps on keeping on. Believable and likeable POV charater. I'm with James, the response "Not at all." doesn't makes sense. Also, in the bulletin, is it asking for people to join the gym or the studen lobby group? But those are just little things. This is a fast moving story that covers a lot of years in a few words. You move from strength to strength.
Kathie Thomas03/07/07
Loved the story, well done. Had to laugh when he called her mother - it totally set the scene for the rest of the story. Very well done.
terri tiffany03/07/07
Great story - like watching a movie and I couldn't wait for the ending!I too loved the characters and the touching moments.
Laurie Glass 03/07/07
Aww, I enjoyed this story. Well done.
Donna Powers 03/07/07
A sweet and enjoyable story. Very nicely done. Thanks for sharing it
Julie Arduini03/07/07
This warmed my heart. My office used to be in a senior center and I can think of so many spunky grandmas who fit Wendy here. I loved this, strong, strong writing. Keep it up!
Joanney Uthe03/08/07
This was really good. I like the interaction between mother and son at the beginning. great job.
Patricia Casey03/09/07
I cried at the ending. I loved your story all the way through. Our toughest battles produce the best stories.

In Jesus' Name,

Suzanne R03/09/07
Fun, fast moving, full of life! Well done.

My 'constructive criticism' for this as a competition entry, given that the topic was 'sewing', would be to make the topic the 'star of the show'. In this fun story, it seems rather like an aside. As you know, in the scoring, the category 'How well did this relate to the topic?' is significant.

Like other readers, I also enjoyed the 'Oh, now I get it!' moment at the start with the interaction between mother and son.

Keep going, Chrissy! You're doing well.
Thomas Kittrell03/09/07
Chrissy, I also, like James, had a problem with the answer she gave her son about how she preferred to be addressed. But, then I thought, I think Chrissy may be trying to say this lady really did not want to be referred to as "Wendy" and was cleverly phrasing her answer so as not to hurt her son's feelings. If that was not the intention, then I think you might should have worded her answer differently. But, a little thing like that does not ruin a great piece of art in writing like this. I can relate to going to college later in life, as I was in my late fifties when I got my Associate of Arts Degree in Electronics, and I was in my sixties when I recieved my Associates Degree in Biblical Studies. Overall, I think this is very good and definitely interesting.
Clyde Blakely03/11/07
Personally, I like the idea that the mother, as a perspective student, presented herself to her son, the college president, as she did - it was formal, by the rules, and exactly what she should have done. I did think the description of the heighth difference threw the relationship of the mother/son off - somewhat out of place as she knew who she was going to see. Great piece though. Good flow and ending. God bless and keep writing.