The Cardboard Box

I splurged on myself once, and spent a week in Iowa City at the Iowa Writers Program Summer Workshop. Very different from the famous one, but it was very good, and the class was led by Robley Wilson, then editor of the North American Review.

The workshop was about a dozen people, and it was fairly diverse. Working people, a doctor, therapists, and a guy from Ireland. The common factor was that we all had a screw loose, and were trying to doing something about that with our writing.

One of my co-workshoppers made it kind of big. Abraham Verghese went all in the following year. He didn’t just return to the workshop, he got a job nearby and applied for The Writers’ Workshop program at the University of Iowa; he was accepted, and, frankly, he’s been notably successful ever since. You know that saying: it’s not enough to succeed, but your friends must also fail? Well, he should have kept me close, because I’d be making him really happy about now.

The first time I stumbled upon his name while reading The New Yorker, I was like, “Wow, cool; I know him!” The most recent time, when his new novel was briefly noted and mostly raved, I was more like, “Come on already; this sucks being me.”

While at the summer workshop, I really liked him. I really liked everything about the workshop, especially the chance to write within a community of like-minded people that cared about literary art forms. That week, I wrote this story. I was never able to do anything with it, but there’s a certain something about this story that I love above all the others.

I hope you enjoy The Cardboard Box, which is inspired by aspects of my own childhood.