Happy Camper


Excerpt from Getting off the Radiator in Oracle Magazine Page 25

After I turned 18, I applied for a summer job as a Girl Scout camp counselor.

I put off telling Mom until the letter came in the mail.

“What’s this?” she asked.

“Well that looks like a letter.”

“Don’t smart mouth me. Are you planning on leaving me, like your sisters? What is Camp Bonnie Brae?”

I tore open the letter and began to dance around with joy.

“I got the job! It’s a Girl Scout camp, Mom. No big deal.”

“Oh no you won’t, I forbid it. You can’t leave me,” she said, as she pushed me.

“You’ve got to be kidding, Mom. I’m eighteen; you can’t keep me here forever.”

“But I thought we’d be able to enjoy our last summer together,” she sobbed.

I cannot let her take my joy, I thought. But it was too late.


Mom reluctantly drove me to camp on a hot summer day in June of 1979. I was invigorated with a new sense of freedom, happy to get away from the dark house. Gnawing guilt lurked somewhere deep within, but I did my best to ignore it.

DEPARTURE IN THE NIGHT: A selection from the memoir of a traumatic past

It’s a scene that plays over and over in my head: my brother Michael destroying the houses Beth and I built from the wood blocks that Grandpa Bill had made for my brothers years before. Maybe the catastrophic sound of the tumbling blocks somehow collided with the memory of Dad leaving.

It was the morning after the party. Looney Tunes was playing on the television set in the corner, and Porky Pig was yelling out “Th-th-th-that’s all folks!” Beth and I were constructing one of our intricate Barbie houses on the floor just outside the playroom in the upstairs hall. Michael was lurking near the television set, his fringed eyes looking nothing like the glamourous ones that prompted Mom to call him Pansy Eyes—a name he despised. He might as well have been fluttering his hands like Snidely Whiplash with an evil grin pasted on his face.



Mark Malatesta Review by Dorothy Preston

Review of Mark MalatestaPhoto of author Dorothy Preston

We’ll have to pop the bubbly this weekend! When an agent sent me an email offering to represent me, I wanted to jump for joy. But I didn’t allow myself to get too excited until you called me. At the time the offer came in, there were three other agents looking at my book. You told me how to follow up with them to get them responding quickly, since I didn’t want to make the first agent wait too long.

My old query was bad, very bad. It wasn’t even close to what it is now. Before I found you, I hired an agent to help with it. I took all the steps she suggested, then I passed the query by her and she made changes. But that query paled in comparison to yours. One reason is all the research and outreach you had me do.

Your process was incredibly educational, in more ways than one. The strategy you taught me about how to research a project and contact people didn’t just help me a get a successful agent. It helped me with job searching! You showed me how to approach people and connect with them in a totally different way, from a different angle.