My story is rooted in an experience dating back 30-some years at the Chicago Art Institute. One of the galleries hosted a juried show and I noticed a ribbon attached to an empty frame indicating placement in the competition. I can't recall if the entry took first place, but it clearly earned some distinction in the show. Another man, upon noticing the award for the empty frame said, "Gee, if I thought nothing could win, I'd have entered the competition myself." Folks around him began to laugh, but were quickly admonished by a miffed docent, who said, "No laughing."
I'd attempted to get this brief encounter into an essay for years without success. It seemed to work as fiction, though.
While I'm principally an essayist, I suppose I've published about 50 short stories over the years, most of them of the whimsical, humor/satire variety, but very few have been based on experience. So managing to finally get the empty frame into a publishable story was very satisfying.