I never get tired of seeing my friends pop up in what I consider to be famous company. Speaking of fandom, as this article is, Tin House was one of the first literary mags I picked up, and at the same time, one of the first I didn’t put down until I’d read the whole thing. T.C. Boyle, whose short stories are never not entertaining and whose book Budding Prospects was on my reading list for my master’s, is a friend of my first workshop leader here in San Marcos, Tom Grimes, who referred to T.C. as “Tom” in workshop (it took about ten of these references for me to understand who he was referring to).
[ed. note: Actually it was the “Toby” reference that took me longer to figure out. That turned out to be Tobias Wolff, i.e. the young DiCaprio in the article, there.]
Speaking of San Marcos, Amelia Gray got her MFA here just before I started, so I consider us inevitable friends if we ever actually meet. Lee K. Abbott was the most entertaining of my undergraduate workshop leaders, and perhaps also the most piercingly intelligent, which is saying a lot. I asked him once to write me a recommendation letter about a year after I’d had his class. He had no idea who I was. Literally did not remember me at all, and I’m sure he’s forgotten me again. And Bryan K Thelonious Hurt, well, he was in that Abbott workshop with me, and about three other workshops as well. Now he’s blogging for the House of Tin. Awesome. All of the awesome sauce, in three-pint graduated beakers, pass em around.
I don’t know if I ever told Bryan this story, but I graduated late, in the winter of ‘04 instead of spring, having transferred schools and needing to make up credit. By the time I graduated, he was already in the PhD program at USC. Meanwhile I had an awful last quarter (which is what they used to call semesters at Ohio State) writing-wise. No more fiction workshops available for me, and in my nonfiction workshop I got screwed into submitting twice in the first three weeks, so I was sapped of creative energy immediately and then subsequently bored for the rest of the term. My applications to grad school were undoubtedly both the best I could muster and also not very good. By the time I received the second of my three rejection letters (suck my balls, Iowa!), I felt like I was done. I stopped writing stories and focused on my career, which at the time was watching Adult Swim in a suit and tie on a couch in the lobby of the Hilton Garden Inn, and, you know, occasionally setting a wake-up call or something.
Anyway, Bryan was back in town for whatever reason that February and I met up with him and some other young writers for drinks and he asked the question I’ve since come to realize is standard small talk in writing circles, which is What are you working on now? I had to admit I wasn’t really writing fiction anymore, just trying to survive my night job. He said, “That’s too bad. You were one of the better ones.” Coming from one of the best ones, that meant a lot. It got me up again. It got me going.
And now look at me! Just look at all these people I kind of know! Except, who the hell is Kelly Luce? She needs to call me like now if she ever expects to get anywhere in this biz. I’m like a walking AWP over here.