She introduced herself—as if she had to—and asked about my writing and my plans.
In college, I had harbored that secret desire but it didn’t seem practical. I pushed myself into a pre-law curriculum, taking writing and English courses on the side and using them to fill nearly all my elective credits. I was trying to find models about the things I thought mattered to me as a would-be writer and I wasn’t aware that I might need to broaden my reading to broaden my experience. They saw something in my prose and I liked the physical work of writing.
The night before the LSAT I shuffled up to the library with my test prep book, its spine uncreased, in near pristine condition. I enjoyed staying up late and composing stories, recreating the world I had paid so much attention to as a boy in southeastern Kentucky.
I was somewhere in the middle and seeing Lee and Hal again it was clear I had come down from Tallahassee to spend time with them. During the introductions the names of some of the people were familiar and others I knew from the reputation of their books. The ones I didn’t know I would find out how important they were by the end of the first day.
It was 2004 and I was 26, finishing up my second semester of graduate school.
He told me not to worry but to focus on my writing if that was what I really wanted to do. So I spent my mornings writing and my afternoons looking for jobs.
During one really tough day I took an automated telephone interview to work as a clerk for Best Buy.
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The motel had probably been falling apart since it opened. Around the pool, the plastic lawn chairs were busted and their seatbacks tottered in the breeze.
The novelist Lee Smith and her husband, journalist Hal Crowther.
They were the ones who had invited me into the fold.