When I wrote this story in an MFA workshop, it was inspired by two things: 1) reading hundreds of bizarre cover letters attached to fiction submissions for the Yalobusha Review, and 2) Gogol’s great short story, “Diary of a Madman,” essentially a series journal entries from a low-level Russian civil servant that become increasingly deranged and non-sensical.
When submitting stories to literary journals, you’re told to keep the cover letter short, and don’t try to describe your story! So, it occurred to me, why not write an aburdist parody of this unwritten code, in which a sad-bastard writer, who’s been rejected from an “elite” magazine for decades, breaks all the rules and writes the strangest cover letter ever. Thankfully, Pine Hills Review was amused enough to take it. I’m not sure if this one would ever “fit” into a collection with my other stories, but still, I’m glad it found a good home: http://pinehillsreview.strose.edu/fiction/
I’m not a huge Elizabeth Gilbert fan. I thought Eat Pray Love was overrated. But listening to her on NPR today, she said something clever and brilliant that I’d like to riff on here…in a larger discussion about Gilbert’s recent Ted Talk — which was about overcoming her fear after writing after a book that sold 10 million copies (tough problem to have, cry me a river — she said that telling people to “follow their passion” is wrong, because some don’t know their passion, and for others, their passion is an unreachable burning tower. Instead, you should follow your curiosity, which might lead you closer to a passion. Trying to write fiction — or any art that doesn’t pay well — is challenging, and to be honest, some days my passion for writing doesn’t burn as hot as it did 10 years ago. But, if I follow my curiosity and pursue a subject I want to learn more about, often it leads to me getting to back to the keyboard or journal, which leads to story or poem, or even the start of a novel. So, for you creative souls, which is all of you, I say the best way to find your passion is to be curious.
That quote, from Denis Johnson’s great story “Emergency,” captures why I started writing fiction ten years ago, and why I’ve now decided to join the new century and create a website/blog. Not too many bells and whistles here, but you’ll find links to the published work of friends and writers I admires, links to my own creative work, and occasional blog posts about things like films, music, sports, teaching, literary theory, and family life. Thanks for tuning in, hope you enjoy.