Forum — From the December 2014 issue

My Mother’s Apartment

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I took a class in ad writing at Pratt Institute when I was twenty-four. I lasted one day. One of my classmates came in on the first day with storyboards for a commercial for a truck. The teacher, a dignified man in a stylish, floral-patterned shirt, asked the student whether they could talk during the break. The teacher offered the student a mint, and ate one himself, then tried to explain that he taught print-ad writing. The truck-commercial student would not hear it. He was so enthusiastic about his work that the teacher gave up and let him present his storyboards. I would have come back, but I was stumped by our first assignment: Write ad copy for shredded wheat.

“Szentendre,” by Andi Galdi Vinko

“Szentendre,” by Andi Galdi Vinko

I bring this up because it was my intention throughout my twenties to have a real job and to write fiction on the side. I was accepted to the MFA program at Syracuse, and I deferred a year and then didn’t go, because I thought getting an MFA was dishonorable. I wanted to be like William Gaddis. I wanted to work, drink, wear normal clothes, pay my bills, and write.

I had a science-fiction novel in mind. I had a page written. All I can remember about it now was the word “swayback.” The swaybacks were a lower class. I had one page, and I was constantly refining the sentences. I called it “my sci-fi thing.” I emailed it to editors and friends. If someone asked me what I was doing, I’d reply: “Writing my sci-fi thing.” Seven years passed in this way. I was thirty-one years old when I recognized that it wasn’t working out.

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’s first story collection, You Are Having a Good Time (Farrar, Straus and Giroux), will be published in February 2016.

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