Today, for your Friday, a story. And a favor.

So last spring, I had this great Intro to Fiction Class. It was also the last one I knew I’d be teaching for a little while, so it was extra cool that they were so great, and fun, and talented. On the second day of class, I did an icebreaker with them, you know, to get to know them better. And one of the questions was if you could have any job, what would it be? Some people said travel writer, some just writer, some talk show host, you know, the usual. And then this one girl pipes up. “Working for Gonzaga, in the basketball program!” she says. We all just looked at her, noticing for the first time (although not the last) that she was, in fact, wearing a Gonzaga sweatshirt. Now remember, this is during basketball season on the UNC-CH campus. “Are you from there?” someone asked. “Nope,” she said. “And I pull for the Tarheels. But I LOVE Gonzaga!”

Okay, so at first we all thought she was a little nuts. But let me tell you: her name is Ashley Payne, and people, she’s SERIOUS. This is a girl who lives and breathes Gonzaga basketball. Who is probably, as I write this, curled up in the fetal position weeping inconsolably because they lost last night. Who—wait for it—has written an entire NOVEL, much of which I have READ, about a girl who (you guessed it!) loves Gonzaga basketball enough to uproot her life and move to Spokane, Washington simply because she MUST be in proximity to the basketball program. (Side note: she’s also a really good writer, one of the best I’ve had in a class, a total natural.) It became a running joke in our class, her complete and total obsession with this team that most of us only heard about at tournament time. What’s a nice girl from North Carolina doing pulling for a team all the way across the country? Who knows? It was all part of the Ashley charm. I told the class more than once, “You may forget this class. You may forget me. But every time you hear of Gonzaga for the rest of your lives, you will think of Ashley.” And in the year since, I have to tell you, I have. Everytime I’ve heard anything about Gonzaga, she pops into my head, in her Gonzaga T-shirt, yelling, “Go Zags!” I remember lots of students for lots of different reasons. But not ever one like this one.

Which brings me–finally—to my favor. I have been informed that Ashley is in the running for Miss Bracket on the ESPN website. Now, I don’t know a whole lot about this contest. I don’t even know a lot about ESPN. But I do know this: if it’s about team dedication in the face of all sorts of obstacles (distance being only the first) she deserves to win. So if you’re so inclined, and have a moment, you can vote for her by going here. The poll is on the right hand side. And thanks.

have a good day, everyone!
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