I hope this doesn't come off the wrong way, but "I Was Young When I Left Home" is my favorite piece I've ever written. Here are some things I like about it:
- It's short. I can read it in less than 5 minutes easily, and I'm a slow reader. You can probably read it twice in 5 minutes, and I invite you to try.
- Yes, I read it to myself, quite a lot actually. I rarely read my published work in its entirety after it's published (not having to read a piece I've spent hours - even days - editing and revising is one of the rewards of being published), but this one breaks my damn heart every time I read it. In fact, I once read it while listening to Whiskeytown's "Excuse Me While I Break My Own Heart," and I felt a lot like the guy who's dancing along with Ryan Adams in this live footage.
- Its brief, concise (9 paragraphs, all five lines or less) structure allows me to do a great shtick while reading it, in which I tell everyone in the audience I'd like to read my entire life's memoirs in nine chapters. I begin after the stifled groans have died down, and after the first chapter ends in roughly 20 seconds I listen for the first laughs. The crowd is mine from there.
- It was published in Robin Hemley's magisterial Defunct Magazine, edited by the wonderful Amy Butcher, and illustrated hauntingly by Margaret Kimball.
- I wrote it as part an in-group contest while editing for Douglas Glover's Numero Cinq Magazine, a time of many formal breakthroughs for me as a writer. Like many other contests I've entered in my life, I finished second.
- A lot of people seemed to like it, which is gratifying. Perhaps my favorite compliment it received was when friend and fellow writer Meg Harris called it "brilliant, infinity-like."
- It gave me a chance to use my favorite photo of me with my oldest daughter, who figures prominently into the final chapter.