The capacity to tell stories is an accident of birth for me. I was born thinking this way. There was no point in my life when I did not think about stories and causal events, about humorous and dramatic ways in which events could be told, and about how a blank page could be filled with wonder. If I have wandered far and wide, and been driven, seduced or called away from writing in my life, I have always returned to a string of authorial stepping stones that connects my past with the future before me.
Actually becoming a writer — by which I do not mean a professional, but rather a practicing writer — is a combination of accident and intent. The more things go in your favor, the easier it is to harness gifts and put words to a page. The more things go against you, the more you must overcome. Whatever obstacles I’ve faced in life, I was born with a number of storytelling gifts. I also happened to be born and raised in a town that is home to a school that values fiction writing. That I neither knew nor cared about these things until I went to college is yet more evidence that the fates were being kind.
My Home Town School
By nature I am not a particularly adventurous person. I have tended most of my life to look before I leap, even when others have counseled that he who hesitates is lost. So it should not come as a surprise that when I finally decided to go to college, after considerable academic carnage in my high school career, I had no thought of going anywhere except to the school in my home town. It wouldn’t have mattered what college it was, or what town I had been born in: that’s what I would have done at that point in my life, and probably for a decade after. (It’s true that my grandmother, father, mother, aunt and uncle also went to the same university, but that’s not why I went. I went because it was familiar and close.)
That I was born in and grew up in Iowa City, Iowa, is an accident. That Iowa City is the home of the University of Iowa, which is the home of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, is also an accident. I planned none of it, yet when I finally decided to wade into storytelling, after more academic carnage in college, the Workshop was there. [ Read more ]