I read Tim O'Brien's amazing short story, "The Things They Carried" in the first writing class I took. I've read it many times since, but I wouldn't need to have reread it even once to remember its incantatory beauty and emotional weight. I had the great fortune to study with Tim at the Sewanee Writers' Conference - where he gave me the single best piece of advice I've gotten as a writer. He is an amazing teacher as well as an amazing writer.
Houghton Mifflin has just released a 20th Anniversary Edition of the book the story appears in The Things They Carried. In celebration of that, I'm sharing an O'Brien quote I read this morning in GalleyCat, which sums up the message I try to convey on 1st Books:
"I try to preach to students tenacity and stubbornness--to be a kind of mule walking up the mountain, to keep plodding. Inspiration is important, but you're not going to get it on a bowling alley or on a golf course or all the other things you could be doing. If you're not sitting there inspiration is simply going to pass." - Tim O'Brien
He says in the same piece, "Just in my case, for a thing to end up any good--that is in its lasting power or lasting in its dance of language--requires a thing to sit for awhile on the desk." So I offer this blog post with the caveat that it has, indeed, not been sitting on the desk anywhere near long enough. My novels do sit, and are much better for the time I spend away from them - but I didn't want to wait the requisite sitting time to urge anyone who doesn't own a copy of The Things They Carried to pick up this new edition. - Meg