Hanging out

Budding Writer, 1979: Potential for collaboration

Reading Time: 2 minutes
Flowers and a hammock make an early spring appearance in Southbury, Connecticut, March 26, 2020.By Howard Fielding. Offered under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0.

I’ve always been a solo writer, although on rare occasions I’ve talked through story ideas with friends. In continuing to read my journals from my first year as a freelance writer, I found this entry from 44 years ago today:

Cold, March lion weather. Spent most of day in town, working for registration. I saw and talked with Ollie, who told me two stories he’d like to write someday (or have written!) — one about an all-too-successful embezzler, the other about a mysterious and successful bomber. There is potential for collaboration here. Other than that, a not very impressive day except that I chatted with people about writing — and almost started convincing myself!
More Garp.

Journal, Volume II
26 March 1979

To put things into context: I was working registration for the opening of Dartmouth’s spring term, a one-day gig. Students, townies, and recent alumni like me would pass out paperwork and dorm keys to the returning students. Unlike most campuses, Dartmouth operates on a quarterly system under which students select which terms they are on and off campus.

The Dartmouth Plan, created when the college first admitted women to the Class of 1976, was still relatively new. By 1979 it was operating smoothly under the auspices of Associate Registrar Sidney S. Letter. Sid came to Dartmouth in 1971 to computerize the registrar’s office system in preparation for the influx of female students. He was easy to identify to anyone who wanted to talk to the man in charge: He was the man in the red jacket with the bow tie.

Sid recruited members members of our co-ed fraternity for the quarterly one-day gigs. Later, Phi Tau recruited him as our faculty adviser.

Ollie — his house nickname — was a fraternity brother a few years ahead of me. By 1979 he was about to graduate from the business school. He was a bit of a celebrity as The Amazing Ollie, the morning drive-time DJ on WDCR. (The rush hour in Hanover, New Hampshire in those days was about 15 minutes.)

I rediscovered this day’s journal entry a few weeks ago and concluded that it was just another missed opportunity. Not all ideas are good ideas, but if they’re good enough to write down, they’re worth following up or at least revisiting.

When I reconnected with him to write this post, Ollie told me that he never did complete those stories, although he started and abandoned the one about the embezzler. He also offered again to share them, so the potential for collaboration is still there. We made tentative plans to get together when I’m in his city later this year.

Perhaps a collaboration, pushing each other for ideas and with deadlines, might make a difference, four decades later.