I was going to make my next post about how much of a bl’ast I had in St Louis for the first official Books & Booze reading/get-together/keg party, but then something crazy happened. I got my first story published. Not that this was a surprise, mind you, as I had already gotten my acceptance e-mail, but until today my genius/nonsense has never graced any pages anywhere except in my own imagination where I just keep putting out short story collection after short story collection, all with the title “Greatest Hits.” But today, I officially saw a story I created on a webpage that someone else runs. And it felt really weird.
A while back, I saw an online literary zine was putting on a writing challenge where you take the last line of a favorite story and use it as your first line, expanding into your own story in 500 or so words. Seeing as how I can’t write anything without a prompt, I jumped in and started looking through Vonnegut, Selby, and Algren, searching for the best last line to make the best first line of a short story. They didn’t do it for me. Instead, I found the perfect starting point at the end of Jeremy Robert Johnson’s Extinction Journals, a post-apocalyptic story about a guy who survives “the end” by wearing a suit made of cockroaches.
My story met all of my qualifications for a good story (I laughed while writing it and said out loud “this is so stupid”) but none of theirs, and it got politely rejected. Luckily, the folks over at Cease, Cows thought differently and gave me my day in the sun. And so my first published story, “What Child Is This?” has had life breathed into it and been read by more people than just my amazingly patient girlfriend Jessica, who somehow still thinks that my writing, which in reality is the equivalent of literary fart jokes, is worth a shit.
It is super exciting for me to have a story “out there,” to have people see that I’m more than just “the dude who hangs out with a bunch of writers,” to see something I wrote actually out in the world for everyone else to see as well.
I used to be a musician. Well, to be fair, I used to be a drummer in a bunch of bands. The very first thing I ever recorded, two songs for a hardcore/punk compilation called “Area 847,” seemed so exciting. I was about to be on a cd for the first time ever, something not recorded in my basement during band practice and never shared with anyone. Then I got my copy of the cd, and my name was misspelled. It read “Dan.” I found out shortly after that it wasn’t misspelled at all, but the singer had decided to kick me out in favor of his friend Dan, so submitted our info with the new guy’s name, then found out Dan didn’t want to do it. I guess it could have been worse…
…and then it got worse.
THREE different records by THREE different bands that I have been a part of have come out AFTER I was out of the band (whether I was kicked out or quit is often a topic of passive contention). The last record of the three even still kept the title that I came up with based on an insult thrown my way years before. So I’m super excited and happy with myself that I have neither broken up with myself or kicked myself out of my self yet, and instead can enjoy this moment.
What is equally exciting to see is people caring enough to share my story with others. Again, when I was playing music (which was all of my life up until now really), I was that guy. I promoted everyone else’s band more than my own. I tried to go to every show I could to support my friends, not expecting anything in return, just doing it because I loved it and I loved my friends and what they were doing. I wanted to share the amazing people and music that I knew, hoping it would enrich other lives as it had mine.
When I first really jumped in to the world of “writers,” I brought this approach with me. And I was nervous. I hadn’t done this writing thing in so long, and had torn up, burned, shredded, or otherwise thrown out EVERYTHING that I had written in the past. Within my first few footsteps in this new world, I encountered some enormous egos that were hard to get around, some “your opinion means nothing to me because I don’t know you” people, some “every time I talk, I relate everything back to me me me me” people. But after walking a few more blocks, I managed to find the good folks, the ones who are sincere and accepting and remind me of why I commit myself to thankless tasks like writing short stories or playing drums in punk bands.
This now comes full circle to my original topic choice. I had the honor and privilege of spending this past weekend in St. Louis at the very first Books & Booze event. I met some awesome people for the first time face to face, I got to hang out with some people who I don’t get to see on a regular basis, and I got to see/hear some amazing authors who I look up to and respect read some amazing stories. I stood there among published writers of all varieties, and not once felt like I was just “the dude who hangs out with a bunch of writers.” It was a great time among seemingly old friends who I was just meeting for the very first time.
Where am I trying to go with all this, what am I trying to say? Just a big thank you to a lot of people. I’m that guy who stays at home a lot, who often feels like a stranger at a party full of people I know, who could make a list of things that anxiety has kept me away from. The guy who sometimes looks back at life and says “what happened?” But today, I feel happy.
here’s that first story, I hope you like it: http://ceasecows.com/2013/06/25/896/