Loser-author matching contest (ended)

When I Was a Loser, an anthology of high school essays, is officially out today. Editor and contributor John McNally appears on Talk of the Nation to discuss the book at 3 p.m.

I’ve cajoled McNally and more than half of the other writers into sending along their high school photos (above). My picture is up there, too — some of you will have seen it already — although it dates to a couple years after most of my essay takes place. I wish I’d been able to find a shot featuring my Sally Jesse Raphaël glasses. Sexxxy.

The first person to match the authors with their younger selves will win a copy of the anthology — signed by several contributors — and a Dr. Who iron-on.

If no one has figured them all out by next Monday at 5 p.m., the prize goes to the person with the most correct answers, or to the winner of a drawing between those who’ve guessed the same number correctly. One guess per person, please. Send your answers to wheniwasaloser@yahoo.com.

Congratulations to Mark Bonney of Seattle, the first person to guess all identities correctly.

Answer key: A — Kelly Braffet; B — K.L. Cook; C — Zelda Lockhart; D — Dean Bakopoulos; E — Tod Goldberg; F — Elizabeth Crane; G — Aimee Nezhukumatathil; H — James P. Othmer; I — Doug Crandell; J — Will Clarke; K — Maud Newton; L — John McNally; M — Julianna Baggott; and O — Johanna Edwards.

The pictured writers, and brief excerpts from their essays:

  • Tod Goldberg (who helps you out at his site): “If the truth be known, I would have preferred not meeting Zsa Zsa Gabor at all versus meeting her while covered in the pubic hair of my sisteen-year-old girlfriend.”
  • Aimee Nezhukumatathil: “Before I left the stage, she whispered, ‘Aimee, your hair!’ and pointed to the bulletin board. There, on the wall of bright construction paper, was a giant grease stain.”
  • James P. Othmer: “We picked up my best friend, Sully, at his house while his mother looked out he window as if I was taking her son on a suicide mission. Sully was a diabetic, had to inject himself several times a day, and often slipped into mild comas while drinking with me.”
  • Julianna Baggott: “My grandmother says, ‘So, you’re going on a date! Isn’t that nice. Now you be good, you hear? You be nice.’ Did I neglect to mention that my grandmother was raised in a house of prostitution? Is this being nice a veiled reference to money? It’s hard to say.”
  • John McNally: “In eighth grade, my hair is a sculpture — thick and wavy — kept in place with a can’s worth of Aqua Net. If someone were to come near me with a cigarette, I’d go up in flames. The good news is, I’m starting to slim down, and the blue leisure suit is looking pretty sweet on me.”
  • Kelly Braffet: “The rednecks we went to school with made machine-gun noises and spit at us when we walked down the hall, and for a while there was even a much-storied ‘Freak Hit List’ in one of the first-floor bathrooms, but most people just ignored us. And let’s be honest: we preferred the machine guns.”
  • Owen King: “[A photo of the Loch Ness Monster] was like the guys who claimed to have girlfriends in other towns, or to have gotten laid over the summer. While you couldn’t disprove what they said, it strained credibility. Why were girls in other towns fucking everybody? What was wrong with the girls in my town? Why was there still a dinosaur in this particular lake? Why Scotland?”

  • K.L. Cook: “My mother and I had our knees on the floorboard, our faces close together on the vinyl seats. Our breaths whistled. Her wig was askew and one of her false eyelashes was plastered to her cheek like an insect. My body shook, my heart thumping wildly in my neck and temples. She smiled at me, a big enough smile for me to see lipstick smudged on her top two teeth. ‘Now that’s what I call fun,’ she said.”
  • Zelda Lockhart: “Senior year we decided we would get Ciretta’s grandmother to make us similar dresses — hers blue and mine pink — and that we would attend the prom together. In my head and heart, she was my girlfriend, a truth neither of us spoke, but a truth we had lived for three years. The adult queer men in the choir strongly suggested that two of them come with us as fake dates.”
  • Will Clarke: “What if I hid the word pussy in my campaign posters and then everyone was manipulated into thinking I was a bigger pussy than they already did? What if a word like cunt didn’t work on girls?. . . . How did these ad agencies know what bad words would connect with a depraved urge?”
  • Johanna Edwards: “If I did go to Prom, I’d have to stuff my size-18 body into one of the sequined nightmares that pass for plus-sized evening gowns. Oh, I’d seen the ‘extended sizes’ prom dresses available at our local department store — all five of them — and the idea of wearing one of those eyesores appealed to me about as much as the thought of turning up naked.”
  • Dean Bakopoulos: “For most of my teen years, I was in love with a guy named Mack. The fact is that we were all a little in love with Mack. Not in an intimate way, mind you — though we did once watch him shoot a bottle rocket out of his ass, which is, in no small way, an act of intimacy.”
  • Maud Newton: “They sat kissing on the bleachers, his hands up her shirt, hers on his broad neck, while I worked at seeming neither pathetically bored nor pathetically interested. Often I paced, kicking up dirt, around the periphery of the baseball diamond.”
  • Doug Crandell: “‘How many of you teenagers here tonight feel pressured by your . . .’ He pried the book apart to a page marked with a red tassel, and searched the text. ‘By your peers?'”
  • Elizabeth Crane: “It turns out that modeling isn’t something you have to go to school for, but even if you did, probably there ought to be some requirements for admittance, which at Barbizon, there were not.”


The remaining contributors (not pictured) to the anthology are: Quinn Dalton, Sean Doolittle, Emily Franklin, Lisa Gabriele, David Haynes, Erika Krouse, Brad Land, Michelle Richmond, Timothy Schaffert, and Richard Yañez.


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