Monday, March 11, 2013

My First Time: Ron Currie Jr.

My First Time is a regular feature in which writers talk about virgin experiences in their writing and publishing careers, ranging from their first rejection to the moment of holding their first published book in their hands.  Today’s guest is Ron Currie Jr., author of the novels God Is Dead, Everything Matters!, and the recently-released Flimsy Little Plastic Miracles.   His writing has appeared in Glimmer Train, The Sun, Other Voices, The Nervous Breakdown and several other places.  The Believer has called his fiction "bladder-threateningly hilarious."  Currie has received the New York Public Library Young Lions award, the Addison M. Metcalf award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and the Alex Award from the American Library Association.  Click here to visit his website.  You can also find him on Facebook and Twitter.

My First Resolve

In November of 2000, a few days after the presidential election but a month before the Supreme Court would kiss the ring of George W. Bush, I was freshly sprung from a mental hospital following the second massive depression of my life.  I say "following," but that's not quite accurate.  The depression hadn't ended--not by a long shot--but I had been deemed fit to be alone around sharp objects and belts and such, and so I got my walking papers.  I was wide-eyed, rail-thin, stumbling around on legs shaky as a newborn fawn's.  I was barely employable, though my workplace at the time was kind enough to keep me on, in an extremely part-time capacity, until my mental convalescence was over.  I spent a lot of time surveying the smoldering remains of my mid-twenties, and what I saw, among the shitty jobs and empty bottles, was the pile of short stories I had worked on in earnest but not yet been able to, quite literally, give away.

One thing I knew was that I couldn't keep working jobs I loathed in order to support writing that no one wanted.  Something had to give.  Either I would demonstrate to myself, finally, that this writing thing was viable (though I had no idea what "viable" meant, beyond writing at least one story good enough that somebody would want to publish it), or I would jettison the whole idea of being a writer, go back to school, and find a job that paid more than $18k a year and didn't make me want to hang myself every other day.

I gave myself a deadline six months away, on my 26th birthday.  If no one had accepted a story of mine by then, I was all done.

It seems laughably dramatic, from this side of the divide--the notion that if I hadn't published anything by the ripe old age of 26, I was useless as a writer.  Ah, the narrow perspective of youth.  But it also focused me, because I knew deep down that I really, really didn't want to give it up.  And the focus paid off--just a couple of weeks before my birthday, I got my first acceptance, from a new online magazine.  The magazine was named for a writer whose books had recently become holy texts for me.  It paid nothing, and was read by nearly no one.  I was overjoyed.  I was galvanized.  Twelve years and three novels later, I still remember the moment, and its effect, as though George W. were still just stumbling through his first inauguration speech.

Photo by Lisa Prosienski

1 comment:

  1. Well, I am glad that the online magazine published something of yours, but more importantly, I am glad that you kept at it.
    Anytime a book recommendation is looked for, yours are the first I mention ... almost involuntarily. :)