I am The Wannabe Novelist. Yes, in title case. To one day drop the adjective (“Wannabe”) and simply be The Novelist or at least A Novelist is a goal on my corkboard of goals that is thumbtacked to the left hemisphere of my brain.

From Brad Listi’s “It’s Kind of Like Creative Herpes”:

I like to joke that one of the best things I ever did in my career was to tell everyone close to me that I was going to write a novel back when I was twenty-one and dumb and fresh out of college. I remember right after graduation I went to a family wedding and stood around all fresh-faced and boozy talking to aunts and uncles and cousins and friends, wearing the coat and tie, receiving congratulations and answering twenty questions about the future.

“So what are you gonna do now? What kind of career path are you gonna pursue now that you’ve graduated college?”

“I’m gonna write a novel.”

THE ORIGINS: From a Construction Site to the Classroom

It was at this age, 21, I, too, seriously began writing—though I did not know it quite then. I was not in college or fresh out; I was working a meager paying job in construction. A friend of mine by the name of Jeremiah, 23, had recently been diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. It was July 2003. The night of his diagnosis, I sat in my car at the basketball court across the street from my house and his. We were next-door neighbors growing up, and the basketball court, to us, had always been hallowed ground where memories of our youth together had been birthed on its very blacktop. The floodgates opened. I cried every salty tear I could accouch from my swollen eyes.
There was a green notebook in my car and an ink pen. I always kept both with me wherever I went. Although I had never written seriously in my life other than horrible love poetry to high school girlfriends, a handful of left-wing, anarchist inspired Letters to the Editor of the local newspaper, and rock ‘n roll lyrics (for the greatest cow pasture rock ‘n roll band to ever exist, Anti-Lou), I used to jot down fragments of thoughts and emotions, or whatever popped into this head of mine. It was a way of controlling all of what bounced around up there. Therapeutic writing, nothing more than emotive prattle.

I flicked on the dim interior light of my car and commenced writing. A little over a month later, I made the decision to enroll in a local junior college. Jeremiah’s sudden diagnosis urged me to think about my own situation in life. I had health insurance, not through work but individually purchased at the request of my parents, particularly my dad, who had not long before overcome his first battle with cancer, Stage IV Colon Cancer.

Could I financially afford to be sick? Jeremiah had a well-paying job with substantial benefits working as an accountant for a firm based in Charlottesville. Therefore, his company was, at the start, helping foot his medical bills, and could also afford him the time away from work while he recovered from the first of what would be his numerous surgeries and hospital stays, first at Lynchburg General Hospital, then the University of Virginia, and later, Duke University in Durham. If I were to get sick, whether from a more likely cause such as a car accident or injury considering my employment in construction, I simply would not get a paycheck. Although I worked with a company, I was considered self-employed, an individual contractor per se. Thus, I had zero benefits. No AD&D. No sick days. No vacation. Nada. If I didn’t work, I wasn’t paid. It was that simple.

Up until this point, I had never really thought about my future seriously, at least not more than a passing nod of what questions tomorrow would bring: peanut butter and jelly on white, or ham on rye. I was never engrossed with the idea of college while in high school. Neither of my parents went nor did any grandparent. Only one of my cousins on either side of the family had been to college and most recently, my sister; hence, college was never really up for consideration for me, never an ambition to attain.

I began college part-time, taking night classes while I worked full-time during the day. I studied on the carpool to work as we drove to our next job site and during my lunch breaks. If I could cut it in these night classes, I would enroll full-time the following year. I was petrified my first day of class having not situated my rear end in a classroom in over five years since high school. Nursing students, being that the class I enrolled in was Anatomy and Physiology, surrounded me. I had even enrolled a day before the add/drop date finalized, so I was already behind from day one by about a week-and-a-half. It showed in my first test. I flunked it miserably. I didn’t know how to study although I did try. Not only had it been half a decade since I last cracked open a textbook, I never once studied in high school. I winged it all. I did well then, but I winged it. There would be no winging it here.

I’m in over my head, I thought. I stared at the results of my test and hung my head. My professor, Mrs. Lisa Dunn-Back, approached me as I shuffled my way out the door.

“Don’t worry,” she said. “You can drop your lowest test score and lowest two quizzes. You’ll be fine. Take a look at your test. Do you see a pattern?”

I didn’t.

“The questions you missed were from the first week-and-a-half of class when you weren’t part of the lecture. You didn’t miss a single question from the week you were here.”

She was right.

I picked my head up. Determined, I made it a point to read every single line on every single page in the gigantic Anatomy & Physiology book that was required for class. I’m going to ace this next one, and I did.

“I told you,” Mrs. Back said, stopping me again as I made my way out the door that day.

A few weeks passed, and with them a handful of tests and quizzes. I piled up A’s and suddenly found myself on the job site during the carpool and my lunch break so immersed in the class text, I knew that I had made the correct decision. I called Jeremiah on a weekly basis to see how everything was going. I told him about my plans to return to college full-time the coming year, but was hesitant to tell him my reasons why, his diagnosis being the wake-up call that made me realize how fragile life is at its core, even at such a young age.

Being that my first round of night classes were science-oriented, there were no creative writing assignments that propelled me forward in wanting to etch my way closer to becoming a writer. To be honest, I had not given it a second thought; to be a writer, that is. What did happen during the time I learned of Jeremiah’s diagnosis and throughout my first year as a part-time student was scribble down little scenes from our childhood. Nothing intact. Nothing literary. Fragments only: An adventure down the train trestles, through the woods playing a game of War as children, or what have you. I jotted down these scenes on scraps of vinyl siding and metal trim, on empty cardboard boxes that housed coil or downspouts.

By the end of my first semester, I had managed to achieve the highest average in Mrs. Back’s class, “the highest average of any student in any of her classes,” she alerted me; this, obviously, after dropping my first test which, due to its very low score (and I mean very low score), would have pulled me down a couple of points easily.

“Have you ever thought about the University of Virginia?” she asked me the last day of class.

Jeez, I had only completed my first semester of class and my professor was already asking me about a school I never in the world thought myself material for ever since I was a kid. I laughed a little, “Well, no not really.”

“You should,” she said, and that was that. My professor had lost her mind.

Then, after another semester taking the second part of Mrs. Back’s Anatomy and Physiology course, came the decision; not quite of LeBron James’ epic proportion, but an important decision nonetheless; and it was, though I had been mulling it over for quite some time, very difficult to make: to leave the job and the co-workers I had known for the last three years of my life, who I had become such great friends with, and return to school.

I loved my job. I really did. Yet I knew it wasn’t in the cards for me, not in my future at least. My boss knew it was coming. He could see the transformation I had made in less than a year’s time and how engaged I had become in the life I led in the hours after work, and he graciously accepted my resignation, and let me know that, should I need any hours to work anytime in the future, I would be welcome to them with his company.

I enrolled full-time at Southside on the John H. Daniel campus in Keysville, Virginia. One of my classes, College Composition I, an English course with Professor Judy Lloyd (then Stokes), would be the first class on my plate, beginning at 8:00 a.m., Monday morning. I had no idea then how much this mandatory course would alter the path I would travel from that point forward, how it would open a window into my creative soul. I was about to find out.

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JEFFREY PILLOW is a contributing writer for The Nervous Breakdown and Hoops Addict. He lives in Charlottesville with his wife, daughter, and dog -- three separate entities. A certified basketball junkie, he also loves cheddar cheese and poorly crafted science fiction thriller films involving cold-blooded animals and bad acting. SEE Shark Attack 3: Megalodon. His work has appeared on Yahoo! Sports, USA Today, and 16 Blocks magazine et al. Visit him online at www.jeffreypillow.com.

35 responses to “The Wannabe Novelist: Part I”

  1. James D. Irwin says:

    I was just looking for a link to Brad’s post on writing.

    For real.

    I’m reading back old TNB stuff. Mostly my old posts about deciding I wanted to be a writer.

    None of them are as well written as this.

    Looking forward to part 2.

    • Jeffrey Pillow says:

      You know, it’s funny, being that you are the first to respond and all. I actually have a quote of yours set aside (from “Attempted Metaphorical Trepanation”) I plan to use in a coming part to this.

      As for Brad’s piece: I like to look back to that as well as Greg’s piece (“This is My First Novel” which I will also be quoting later too) when I need a little motivational boot to the ass when it comes to writing.

      It’s comforting to know the hurdles, doubts, rewrites, etc. are shared by other writers who have since gone on to publish their first novel.

      Thanks for the kind words, and by the way, enjoyed your short piece on The Gutter’s Pie.

      • James D. Irwin says:

        I don’t get quoted as often as I should! I’m going to read that piece now and try and guess which bit, although really I should just go to bed.

        I always find it strange writing/thinking about writing. Because of course that first sentence is a joke. I’ve just turned 21 and really no-one should be quoting me at all. Nobody should even have had my ham-fisted attempts at writing forced upon them so young, but they have. And as a result I have a few years worth of my writing that can be accessed almost instantly and I can see how I’ve evolved up to this point. Which is as weird as it is awesome.

        Thanks for the kind words on my short story.

        • Jeffrey Pillow says:

          I feel the same way. I think I’ve only ever written about writing once before in my life, and after doing so I thought, “What a waste of my time to write about writing. I could have been writing instead.”

          However, I decided that writing about writing is something I need to flesh out, get out of my system, and really make me remember what it is that got me started down this whole path “to be a writer” thing. Part of what instigated it, I believe, is the fact I am getting ready to move, buying a house actually, closing tomorrow. In my quest of boxing up all of my belongings, including every notebook I’ve apparently I’ve ever owned in my life, I came across a slew of old short stories, creative nonfiction, scraps of paper with thoughts on it, etc., some as far back as high-school, and even the intro to the piece I mentioned above I began in July 2003 when I was 21.

          I won’t let you in on what part it is I’m quoting but I think it’s one many writers, if not all, can relate to; and one that really jumped at me while I was reading Syd Field’s Screenplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting, pp. 244-45, that yes, I will also be quoting from. Ha. “The Wannabe Novelist” will be chock full of references.

          No problem on the kudos. I enjoyed reading The Gutter’s Pie story.

        • James D. Irwin says:

          I write about writing far too frequently. I enjoy it though, and I think it’s helpful as a writer.

          It helps you realize you’ve improved, reminds you why you’re doing it anyway and helps clarify what you want to acheive. And, if you’re lucky, you might be able to go back and read some really lovely comments that boost both your faith in mankind and your ego.

          I’m always interested in reading about how people fell into writing. It’s strange, you’re around seven years older than me. Christ knows what I’ll be writing by then… things change very quickly. In the piece you quote from, for example. That was written just over a year ago, and very little of it is still true. As I’ve grown older and tried different things I’ve come to accept humour writing is where my talents work best, and what I enjoy the most and instead of novellas I’m focused on that.

          But maybe that’ll change. Probably not. I feel almost like the last few years have been like tasting various wines and now I’ve chosen the one I’m going to buy a case of. And ironically I’m kind of back where I started. Writing comedy. In fact the story at The Gutter’s Pie was written about eighteen months ago and then re-written last week.

          I’m in the process of moving too…

  2. Richard Cox says:

    I loved this. I really dig stories of transformation. I’m sorry for the what inspired you, but at the risk of sounding trite, from something terrible emerged something good. Jeremiah would obviously love to know that if he could.

    I especially love it because I can so closely identify with it. Almost no one in my family went to college either. And when I did go it was expected that Business or Engineering were the only two useful subjects to study. Certainly liberal arts were not even a consideration. It seems like you even had a more uphill route to climb. Hats off to you, sir.

    I think almost anyone with enough determination and humility and objectiveness about themselves and their work can write and sell a book.

    All the best. I look forward to reading more on this.

    • Jeffrey Pillow says:

      Thanks Rich, or RichRob as Zara calls you. Jeremiah’s diagnosis was sort of the spark that lit the flame, and one which I will go into more detail about as I continue to write “The Wannabe Novelist.” I can, now looking back on that summer, see a linear path of progression, both in who I was, who I am at this stage in my life, and who I want to be in the future; not just as a writer but as a person, friend, and citizen in my community.

      As for college, I always find it interesting the paths people choose despite the obstacles in their way, whether it’s economic, the lack of parental guidance, or something else — you having a similar experience with parents who weren’t familiar with the university scene. Being that I was a non-traditional student from the start, the college game was played differently for me than some of my classmates, 18-year-old kids, who, probably were very much like I was coming out of high school: just sort of going through the motions by just being there. Is that true in all cases? Not hardly. But when I was 21, I wanted to be there. I wanted to learn. I knew exactly what it felt like to work a job, getting up at 6 AM, working in the rain, in the snow, the wind as it blew 45 MPH at the top of the ladder, in the dead heat of summer with bees shooting out of woodwork when you lent a hammer to a 2×4 or gable. Motivation bit me right in the ass and I planned to make the most out of it.

      I hope to write a book in full I deem worthy and sell it one day. Writing and reading, and just the literary community in itself, I find extremely valuable and important to me. I feel at home here and just simply discussing books and writing. It’s ingrained in me like marrow. I’m glad you enjoyed this. Thank you for taking the time to respond.

  3. Zara Potts says:

    I really enjoyed this, Jeffrey. You are a lovely storyteller.
    You use words with such gentle precision – It’s no wonder you aced your classes.

    I particularly love the fact that you write on whatever is close at hand. When Simon and I were traveling through the states (Why Oh Why did we go to Lynchburg and NOT Charlotte?!?!) I would scribble thoughts and impressions into a notebook that I always carry. Oftentimes though, it’s napkins or even my cellphone.

    I find it remarkable that you were able to transform Jeremiah’s illness into your own transformative experience. Not many 21 year olds would do that. Although, I remember when my grandmother died when I was 22, it gave me enough of a kick in the arse to actually go out and find a career as a journalist for myself. I don’t know whether I would have done that if she hadn’t died.

    Looking forward to part two…

    • Jeffrey Pillow says:

      I like to say I get my storytelling skills from my mom (and grandfather). My mom talks all the time and is very, very detailed. Haha. Therefore, I didn’t get as much of an opportunity to speak when I was a kid so I used to just write stuff down. It was my way of “talking.”

      It’s Charlottesville, not Charlotte. I don’t want you to end up in North Carolina looking for me next trip. Ha. (Although I did grow up in a place called Charlotte County but it’s in Virginia’s southern region close to the NC border). I’m with you on the scribbles. I love a good napkin or convenience store receipt, and my wife tells me I’m going to one day die of ink poisoning from writing on my hand (while driving) so much. If an idea pops in your head, you gotta do what you gotta do. I need to utilize my mini-tape recorder more. It may prevent an accident on the highways, and I find, as I’m sure many here do, the ideas populate one’s brain most when you’re in a situation (such as driving or walking) when it’s difficult to write it out.

      It seems, at least from my experience and hearing from others, that it’s either love or loss that stimulates the writing gene most oftentimes. I’ll write on that more as “The Wannabe Novelist” continues. I am glad you could also turn your grandmother’s death into something positive. Our family and friends plant seeds in us and it’s up to us to water and nurture them. I love your storytelling and I am happy you share it with so many of us to read on a frequent basis.

      • Zara Potts says:

        Damn! There are too many Charlottes in your country. We did actually go through Charlotte, now I remember. It was achingly hot and deserted. Next time we are coming to CharlottesVILLE.
        It’s a promise.

        • Jeffrey Pillow says:

          Blame that dang patroness of the arts, Queen Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, for the magnetism she had on the Commonwealth of Virginia and our tobacco cousin to the south, North Cackalacky.

  4. Simon Smithson says:

    I, too, love stories of transformation, Jeffrey, and this is a good one. It’s reassuring to hear this kind of thing, even if it comes from a place of sadness. I’m sorry to hear about your friend; if I was to be in such a grim situation as being diagnosed with such an awful, awful condition, I think I would want to help someone I cared about move their life forward, no matter how indirectly.

    RE: yours and Jim’s discussion. I think it’s hugely important to discuss and be aware of our own writing and changes in it. It’s one of the single best ways I know to get better.

    Looking forward to part two, amigo.

    • Jeffrey Pillow says:

      It’s sort of like Franz Kafka’s Metamorphosis without that whole giant insect part. Thanks for the condolences Simon. Jeremiah was a good dude. He was one of those cats that never had a foe in life, that everyone got along with, and no one had a bad thing to say about. I can easily say he inspired me. Heck, he inspired many. We’re all better people for him being in our lives, either for a short time or from the moment we hit Kindergarten.

      Speaking of inspiration, I can’t help but smile when I see James’ posts; or, as Greg calls him, Jedi. It’s refreshing and amazing at the same time to see a young writer grow before your eyes; that’s true for a lot of writers here. You can see their progression. I can see my own as well. TNB makes me want to be a better writer, and reader. It does just that. Thanks for reading Simon, and for taking the time to respond. I always appreciate your comments.

  5. Don Mitchell says:

    Yeah, Jeffrey. This is nice.

    I wonder how much of your later success came because that first course was anatomy and physiology. I learned the hard way that there are some subjects where “I get it” isn’t enough. See the big picture, see what’s interesting, don’t master the details . . . bad. I had two anatomy courses in graduate school. The first one I screwed because I didn’t do the hard work, and for the second one (same prof) I was the best student. So I wonder if for you the combo of get the concepts plus do the work didn’t launch you in the best possible way.

    Isn’t writing rather like that?

    • Jeffrey Pillow says:

      I’ll get more into Anatomy & Physiology and the role Mrs. Back played as I continue writing this. I’ve always been a big science person. It just fascinates me. Mrs. Back had a lot of faith in me and was ultimately the person who pushed me toward applying to UVA. I had a really good set of professors at Southside. They truly were mentors, and individuals I still look back on fondly.

      I’m in definite agreeance with you on concept + hard work. Writing is definitely like that. Have you ever read Syd Fields’ Screenplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting? Greg recommended it to me not long ago, saying it could turn out to be very useful in novel writing. Most of what Fields says, though it’s technically geared toward writing for film, can easily be applied to writing fiction or memoir. He really pushes the concepts of context and content, and the doubts a writer will undoubtedly have throughout the writing process, etc. I have really enjoyed reading it. I’m almost done. Only about 30 pages left. I plan to read it again right after I finish.

  6. Matt says:

    I’ll wait until I’ve read both halves to leave a full comment, Jethro, but I will say up front that I think this is shaping up to be the strongest piece of yours I’ve yet read here. Good work.

    • Jeffrey Pillow says:

      It’ll be a little longer than two parts. It may turn out to be quite a doozy in length. I don’t really know quite yet. I’ll see where it takes me. I appreciate you taking the time to read it and for the kind words also.

  7. Irene Zion says:


    You will certainly become a novelist.
    Your name is Pillow, for crimineysakes!
    If that isn’t an author’s name, I don’t know what is.

    • Jeffrey Pillow says:

      Ha. I hope so. The last name works great for my wife. She’s an elementary school guidance counselor. Pillow is a very comforting name for children. Speaking of “comfort-,” a family name of my wife’s is “Comfort” and when we were getting serious back when we were dating, I was like, if we ever have kids, I’m sorry, but they will not have Comfort as their middle name: Comfy Pillow. That’s just teasing waiting to happen. A child can’t escape that. She really had her mind set on that name but I have finally, after all these years, convinced her otherwise. Thank you for reading Irene. Always a pleasure to hear your feedback.

  8. Garrett Socol says:

    I was really disappointed when I got to the end of your piece. I was totally engaged and wanted it to keep going! What happened next? I guess I’ll have to wait for Part Two.

    I never really “decided” to become a writer. I just wrote. I’d forgotten that I wrote short stories when I was ten, eleven years old! But then I remembered, and realized it all made sense.

    A novel is such a huge undertaking that I’m completely happy writing short stories. (My first collection will be published next year I’m happy to report. No, change the word “happy” to “thrilled.”)

    Even when I was producing television full-time, I wrote on nights and weekends. It’s such a personal thing to do, such a reflection on who you really are. Anyway, I digress. Looking forward to the next part of your inspiring story.

    • Jeffrey Pillow says:

      The craft of writing chooses us. We don’t choose it. It’s embedded in the writer. If it’s going to surface one day, it will. It’s just waiting for the right time to come to fruition. I think that’s true of creative people in general. I like being creative, and I know exactly what you’re saying about having written when you were younger. My sister and I wrote a “book” when we were four- and six-years-old: Madballs; yes, modeled after the AmToy of the same name. Not sure how many people remember those toys. They were sort of known for their cartoonish, grotesque appearance and odd names. I still have it. She actually wrote it and I illustrated it. It’s pretty hilarious, and even more so since we glued the spine incorrectly (on the right instead of left).

      When I was in 7th grade, I wrote and illustrated, what I guess can only be described as a children’s book, called The Ballplayers. It was for a class assignment: Dirks Works Publishing. My teacher’s last name was Dirks. Still have that too, and have seriously considered resurrecting it and trying to sell it as a kid’s book. It is definitely written in the mind and for the mind of a child. Later, when I was in high school, I took a creative writing class and wrote a 50-page book about punk rockers from a dysfunctional family. Not very good but still, it was writing. And it’s funny too, because, I had completely forgotten about all of this until I was in my twenties again. So, although it was there–writing–I had sort of abandoned it, prose at least. I always wrote, but it was mainly poetry (bad poetry), song lyrics, and little childish anti-government essays. Such is youth.

      Best of luck with your collection. I love short stories. I used to be convinced short stories and the novella were going to come back “in style,” considering the attention span of my generation. I still hope it does. I’m rooting for the concise and condensed.

      It shall continue… I guess diappointment isn’t such a bad thing in this case. Thank you for reading and replying. Your comments remind me of things I had long forgotten myself, and I enjoy discussing them with you and reading yours as well.

  9. Lisa Rae Cunningham says:

    Jeffrey. I love the notebook and pen in the construction vehicle. I remember when I was 25, single and pregnant and my mother told me a local Wendy’s was looking for a manager. The future was bright. Well, I’m glad you’re writing. I need to read stories about traumatic massage experiences. Not to downplay the horror… I just find your story-telling skills incredibly amusing.

    • dwoz says:


      • Jeffrey Pillow says:

        re dwoz: I have to admit, I liked working in construction. It has served me well since with practical skills I never would have had otherwise (and sure beats the hell out of working in the food industry which I also did for a short time. NEVER AGAIN). With that said, I do not miss the following about construction: working in the rain, working in the wind, working in the snow, working in the dead heat of summer, working in the dead cold of winter, waking up at 6 AM, getting stung by bees, pissing on a snake in the woods and then almost pissing on myself by jumping ten feet in the air when the snake lunges at me, and lastly, back problems from being crouched over a cut table for nine hours a day/five days a week. The latter costed me way too much money in future physical therapy sessions — although those electrodes they hook you up to to jump your muscles feel some kinda good. I gotta get me one of those machines one day.

        • dwoz says:

          Yeah, I was specifically referring to the “Wendy’s Assistant Manager” gig. Soul-damaging.

          I too enjoy building trades. I’ve built a house, completely renovated/restored another, and been trained up as a plasterer. (as well as the requisite jobsite day laborer/carpenter) I once plastered an entire church…the building is now a library/museum, but they still do have Sunday services there… It was nice to stand at the bottom at the end and look up at the almost 80 foot high perfect glass-mirror-smooth walls. Feeling good about something existing at the end of the day, because of me.

          That was the thing I liked about it. I once ripped out an asphalt walkway and installed a reclaimed-brick walk in a nice herringbone pattern. Looking at it, I thought “feet will be stepping on these bricks in 100 years. Yet the software I write tomorrow will be obsolete and gone in about 3 years.”

    • Gloria says:

      I love that you wrote bits of memory of scraps of construction material. I totally envision an art exhibit where you hang or mount them and put them on display. You could call it “Constructing Memory” or somesuch thing. I just think this has real emotive potential. Do you still have them?

      • Gloria says:

        Gah! Too many ofs.

      • Jeffrey Pillow says:

        re Gloria: Sadly, no, I don’t still have those scraps. For the longest time, I did keep them. (I’ve always been a big hoarder like a squirrel keeps acorns) In my closet could be found big chunks of cardboard, vinyl siding, scrap wood, and metal coil with words scribbled on them, and also very immature drawings. Then one day, I rewrote them all in a notebook and got rid of them.

    • Jeffrey Pillow says:

      It was actually my Camry but hey, I did use it to commute to the job site from time to time. Usually, I rode with my co-worker Jay. I loved his old pickup truck so much I accidentally pulled the stick shift out of it once trying to put it in gear while on a Gatorade run to the store. I literally uprooted the stick shift. It was just sitting in my hand, my foot on the clutch, and I was on a slope in the parking lot. I don’t think he’s ever fully forgiven me for that. Ha.

      I’m glad you write too. It’s amazing how our place at certain points in life–such as what you mention–can seem so, well, low and hopeless. (When I think of some of the dead end jobs I’ve worked in my life, I’m so grateful for where I am now) Writing is a quicker picker-upper, like Bounty, but with greater moisture absorption. Paper soaks up tears and sweat quite nicely.

      Thanks for the kind words. I’m glad you get a giggle from my stories. I would have loved to have linked “The Unintentional Erection” on Facebook for my friends and family to read too, but my grandma just got Facebook, so I didn’t want her to have a coronary. I think she likes to remember my penis in a different way: bloody and freshly circumsized after coming out of her daughter’s womb. Thus, I shared only with my TNB friends.

    • Gloria says:

      My very first job, Lisa Rae, was dressing up like Wendy at the Grand Opening! of the new Wendy’s in Roswell, New Mexico. (This was, as you can imagine, a big deal in town.) I dressed up like Wendy and handed balloons to little kids and stood on the street waving in cars. More character building experiences. I have so much god damn character.

  10. Gloria says:

    ohmygod I love Mrs. Brack so much. I love teachers. Some of the greatest people who ever touched my life were teachers. What a great story!

    This is the second time today that TNB has made me cry. The first time, it was the fault of Irene Zion.

    This story is an inspiration. I love it. I want more. I want to hear what happened with your friend. And your dad. What you majored in. When you graduated. What you do now. Your writing is compelling and it makes me care.

    I love this so much.

    • Jeffrey Pillow says:

      Mrs. Back’s great. She had more faith in me than I had in my ownself for the longest time. I’m with you on teachers. I hope they know how much they mean to a lot of students who enter their classroom one way and sometimes leave another, more determined, with greater self-esteem, and feelings of potential.

      My bad on making you cry. (Have you read “The Lady Next Door” I wrote? Ha. I brought my mom to tears with that one the first couple of times she read it) That’s a comforting thing for you to say (“Your writing . . . makes me care). It gave me chills actually. I’ll continue with the rest of this and you’ll see how it unfolds. Thank you so much for reading, and taking the time to reply.

  11. Joe Daly says:


    Your writing always comes from such a thoughtful, meditative space. At least that’s how it feels. I like the happy ending here- that you tapped into inspiration and found your soul as a writer. Everybody has creative impulses, but a cursory review of lots of the art out there (music, lit, physical art) seems to lack soul. But when you access your inner passion, what comes out has got to be something pretty spectacular.

    I look forward to following along with your journey!

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