By Ashley Lodato
Methow Valley resident Rose Weagant has won first place in the 2021 Write on the River fiction contest with her submission “The Piggly Wiggly.”
The story, which Weagant honed from its original 4,000 words to comply with the 1,000-word limit for entry, begins, as Weagant writes, “at the far end of a Piggly Wiggly parking lot on a gray Sunday afternoon.” It ends there too, physically, but the narrative is anything but stationary.
Weagant, too, has been anything but stationary throughout her life. Raised in Manson, Weagant left as soon as she turned 18, headed for “Louisiana, Alaska, Florida – anywhere I could,” she said. She earned a degree in English and Creative Writing from the University of West Florida, but it wasn’t until becoming a parent that she began to think of herself as a writer.
When Weagant was a teen she thought she was going to be “a poet, all romantic and dramatic.” She remembers writing “crazy wild romantic stories,” without thinking about doing anything further with them; she just wanted to write them.
While living in Louisiana with her two young children and an offshore-employed husband, Weagant started writing stories about being a parent. “My dad [Methow artist Rod Weagant] had sent me an Erma Bombeck book and it was just so fun to read,” Weagant said. “And my uncle had this list of The Onion-style fake story titles, so I started writing stories like that, where all the jokes were on my inadequacy in parenting. I just fell in love with writing comedy, with the experience of writing.”
Weagant drew on her experience as a divorced parent for “The Piggly Wiggly.”
“When you’re divorced and you trade kids, it’s the custody hand-off in the back of a grocery store parking lot,” she said. Ostensibly a custody exchange story, “The Piggly Wiggly” is funny, poignant, and surprising.
It was a last-minute entry, said Weagant, who is in her first year as the high school art teacher at Okanogan High School. “I’ve been in pandemic teacher brain all year long,” she said, of teaching under COVID-19 conditions. “It’s mostly about mitigating kids’ feelings. It’s so hard for them right now. Everyone is just trying to survive.”
It’s hard for Weagant to fit in writing, with her full-time job and the sheep, ducks, guinea fowl, and geese at the farm she and her partner are nurturing. “We got the empty nest – and we just filled it back up,” she said. Weagant’s daughter, Liberty Bell graduate Magnolia Brown, is in theater college in Portland, while her son Julian is a freshman in high school in Cheney, living with his father.
“I write every morning, but the content is never any good,” Weagant said. “I should be more of an evening writer. I’m always hungry to write.”
Weagant won third place in the 2019 Write on the River contest, for her story “The Buskers.” This year, she decided, “Oh I could do that. I could try again.” She tried, she entered, she won.
“When someone reads your story and they enjoy it, it’s very rewarding,” she said. “Just getting notes back from judges, with comments and criticism, it’s pretty cool. You realize, ‘they think I’m a writer!’ That’s amazing.”
You can read “The Piggly Wiggly” at http://writeontheriver.org/writing-competition-winning-submission.