Wednesday, October 26, 2016

From The Atari Times to The Throes of Crime

erikarnesonsquareOne of my earliest memories of school is writing a short story about King Kong and how proud Mom was when I brought it home. (I wish I remembered more about the actual story — I’m certain it would have made a worthy sequel to the original film.)

A few years later, I wrote a four-page newsletter called The Atari Times to share my fifth-grade thoughts on the Atari 2600 and games like Pitfall, Space Invaders, and Circus Atari. Dad took my creation to work and made photocopies, then drove me around our development as I dropped off free samples to drum up subscriptions. (It didn’t work. There might have been a second issue, but I can’t swear to that.)

As a freshman at Temple University, I started a play-by-mail professional wrestling simulation called the Global Wrestling Federation. Mom and Dad helped me file a fictitious name registration with the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and buy some advertisements to find customers.

When I started writing for a small music magazine called Notebored, Dad bought me a subscription to Writer’s Digest to help me learn the craft.

In short, Mom and Dad were relentlessly encouraging.

Last year, they both passed away. Mom suffered a stroke on April 22, and I will always believe that she would have fully recovered — except that Dad died of a heart attack just two days later. Once the reality set in that her husband of 45 years was gone, Mom was ready to join him in the next life. She did so less than three months later, on July 12.

14691927_10210834636448831_8116857010231003939_oThe James and Jeanne Arneson Memorial Scholarship Fund was created to honor their memory and continue their legacy of encouragement. The fund provides financial support to graduates of Wilmot High School in Wilmot, South Dakota, who display an aptitude in creative writing by authoring a short story.

Why Wilmot? Dad’s grandparents — my great-grandparents — moved to the United States from Norway in 1903. In 1914, they moved to Wilmot, a small town (population 492) in northeastern South Dakota. That’s also where they’re buried.

The scholarship fund is managed by the South Dakota Community Foundation, with a Scholarship Selection Committee consisting of me, my wife Elizabeth, and authors Jen Conley, Merry Jones, and Jon McGoran.

Superintendent and High School Principal Larry Hulscher and English teacher Danielle DeGreef made sure students were aware of the scholarship and encouraged them to enter. In May, Elizabeth and I visited Wilmot to award the first scholarship to senior (now graduate) Jessica Zempel, who won for her short story “Love, Lust, and Death.” We can’t wait to see what students come up with in future years.

If you’d like to donate to the fund, it’s pretty simple.

My first book, The Throes of Crime, a collection of 26 short stories and six true-crime essays, is available at Amazon (ebook and paperback), and all proceeds from The Throes of Crime benefit the fund.

If you’d like to donate directly to the scholarship fund, you can find out how at my website.

And please take a moment today to encourage someone — a child, a parent, a friend, a stranger. Encouragement is a powerful thing.