called yesterday and offered me a teaching fellowship at the University of Iowa. Full tuition waiver, health benefits, and the opportunity to learn with the best, from the best. I took the call from Samantha Chang at Star Liquor, hunched in the back of the store, sitting on a stack of Fosters beer oil-cans. The radio was blaring at Star and I could hear what sounded like fatigue and confusion in her voice as we talked – who is this guy I’m calling at a liquor store? Over 1,400 people applied for just 20 spots, and I am one of those 20. One day prior, I had received an unofficial telephone call from a friend and professor at another program with a similar offer at a program that has very much intrigued me. Suddenly, and after eight years away from academia, I have options. Great options. The best of options. Stunning.
I have a lot of people to thank, beginning with my family. My parents who supported my writing from the early stages. Regina and her family who are always interested in my work. Alex, for reviewing my early drafts. Swan and Novak and the Walters Family and Tracy Hruska. Everyone at Round River. Tara Mathison. DEAN BAKOPOULOS – whose workshops were really the key this year, and whose advice and recommendations were invaluable. Marysa LaRowe, who is an incredible writing talent and a hell of an editor, and friend. Carrie, Erin, Aaron, Chris, Marsha, and Pat – amazing readers who sharpened my manuscript and built me up. Professor Rebecca Walkowitz, Gail Kohl, Jason Smith, Doug Milek, Matthew Rothschild, everyone at The Lumberyard, Fresh Cup, Roast, Madison Magazine, and Volume One. Joel Raney and Fred Poss and Doug Smith. The Stewarts. The Meeks family. My grandparents and aunts and uncles. Gulig and Hogseth and the Purple Wings. Shanna Germain and Julie Beals.
One reason I started Light Travels Faster Downhill was that I felt I needed some kind of inertia to build prior to sending out my MFA applications this year. Last year I sort of approached the whole process haphazardly. My portfolio was decent, but I hadn’t tried hard enough. I hadn’t read enough. And I hadn’t worked on my fiction. I was reticent to ask for other peoples’ support, and prayers. There is a saying, there are no atheists in foxholes, and that might describe me. I do pray sometimes, but it tends to happen when things come to a hilt. When my Dad suffered his aneurysm for example. Or when I was stuck packing meat. But this year, I asked for peoples’ goodwill, and I truly think that helped. I think this blog helped. I’m trying hard to be a good person, to be the best person I can be. I think of this blog as a kind of horn, a trumpet.
I wish my Dad was healthy and right, because he’d being going crazy right now. My Mom called this morning and I could hear the pride in her voice at the end of our conversation. But Dad would have been through the roof.
I have to start thinking about a novel. My white whale also happens to be the notion of attempting a novel. Funny to think of a pen as a harpoon.
There is work again tonight at Star Liquor, and afterwards no doubt, many drinks to be drunk. Last night we opened a bottle of champagne and my co-workers toasted me. There is a great fellowship is slinging booze, in earning eight dollars an hour, in loving the bubbles of alcohol. Everywhere, I am very lucky.
Also, this morning, Henry and I saw a hawk in the top of a hackberry tree. Snow was coming down – movie snow. Big and beautiful and white. Snow to steal your breath.
If I publish a book, you have to promise to buy one. If.