The Early Days

I went to my first open mic when I was 5. My parents gave me a ride and dropped me off at the Village Green Tavern in Boston. Back then there were a lot less writers in the world. So the people who came were often well known writers. That night there was J.D. Salinger, John Cheever, and Kurt Vonnegut. They read excerpts from their latest works. They smoked and drank and swore onstage. They made jokes about grammar. They said really mean things about their publishers.

I got onstage and nervously read a story about my dog. It was called “Rover’s Revenge”. I wrote it for my kindergarten fiction writing class. It was about how my dog Rover was very kind and friendly, but then he would fall apart when squirrels taunted him from the trees as I took him out for his walks. He would shake, and foam at the mouth. One time he went nuts and ran up a tree. I hung onto his leash and got pulled up with him. Rover ran through the branches eating one squirrel after another.

When I was done with this story, I got off stage and sat in a corner booth and cried. Earnest Hemingway came over and joined me. He gave me a mug of cherry coke. I said, “That was horrible, I can’t believe how much I sucked.” He said, “Kid, I feel the same way every Goddamn time I get offstage. Welcome to the world of being a writer.”

I said, “Then why do it?” Hemingway said, “When you realize you feel that way about everything you do, then why not?”

I smiled and then threw up on Hemingway’s lap. He had me kicked out and I was told to never come back. I’ve been writing ever since.

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