Letter to Chuck Palahniuk

Dear Mr Chuck Palahniuk…

Thank you, first of all, for the package you sent me last time. I still have the parrot, necklace, the santa hat — all that stuff. Even the confetti…

But I did have to eat the candy. Money was tight, and I was on the brink of starvation. It had to be done… I still have the empty box, though.

On with the real letter, now…

I’ve read that when you wrote Fight Club, you were trying to create a structure for men to get together. There there was no structure like getting together to play majohng, or make a quilt.

A friend and I created our own structure almost fifteen years ago. It involved riding our mountain bikes out into the middle of nowhere that was the desert wilderness behind our houses. We would then refuel ourselves on massive amounts of Mountain Dew at the local 7-Eleven and tell stories.

We decided that whoever had the best story was obviously living the better life. Was having more adventures. Was enjoying life.

Most of the stories we told were about our failures. Embarrassing defeats at the hands of women or bullies or our parents. Most of these stories, we discovered, were made better when we chose to do the wrong thing. The unsafe thing. Taking a chance. Doing things that were uncharacteristic of what we thought we were supposed to do — who we understood ourselves to be.

Over the many years, we have amassed a huge catalogue of stories between the both of us. I tell my friend that he should become a writer so that he can get these stories out. He’s a natural storyteller.

I tell him he at least needs to get his stories onto paper, so he doesn’t forget them…

But he just tells me that I can use them for my writing. That I’m the writer, and I can make them better.

Frankly, in a cage match between my stories and his, mine always end up on a gurney being rushed off to the hospital. It’s a goddamn massacre.

His life has obviously been the better one, so far…

But if you truly think of your life as a story, that means you are in control. You get to decide where your “plot” goes. And if you have the testicular/ovarian fortitude to devote yourself to the craft of writing, it should be all that much easier to carve out the life you want for yourself. You know all about pacing and composition and conflict and character motivation and resolution — it’s just putting all that stuff together.

Since the letter I wrote to you last time, these are the stories I have made:

I lived in Arizona, and survived not being able to immediately find a job and having my car totaled in a non-life-theatening lame accident and getting subsequently raped with a cylindrical cheese grater by my insurance company.

I finished writing a novel that is galaxies beyond my first misguided attempt, thanks to your workshop lessons.

I actually made some friends that I remain in contact with now that I have moved back to Reno. And I am making the effort to talk to more people.

I have gotten back into a band and am getting ready to start playing gigs again.

I also started exercising and eating better. I lost some weight and became a vegetarian — mainly because a character in my book was — and it is something that I always wanted to do but thought that I couldn’t. That I didn’t have it in me. Didn’t have the conviction.

But here I am…

Whenever it comes up that I am a vegetarian, there are always one of two things that people always say. Either, “You eat fish, though. Right?” Or, “I could never give up eating meat.”

First, I never ate fish to begin with — I mean, they BREATHE IN no only their own, but other animal’s feces. That’s just fucking gross.

And second, that’s exactly what I thought. I thought that is was something beyond my weak discipline. That it was something only other people could do.

But I did it.

I wrote about it, and then I did it.

That is the power of writing. Of stories. And that is the power we all have if we just grab life and write our own story instead of just listen to other people read to us. Or worse, just sit on our ass and watch television.

That’s the reason I am glad that you request we write our goals in these letters to you. So that, hopefully, we realize that if we write it, think it, whatever — we can do it. That if we look at other things we have accomplished, we will realize that we can achieve the things we set out to do. The things that we want.

So what do I want out of this next year? Just one thing…

I am now in charge of the writer’s workshop at the Barnes & Noble I work at. I have passed on lots of little things that are helpful to me that I have learned — both on my own and thanks to you. I have even given to the group as “homework” your book Stranger Than Fiction.

I have also discovered coworkers that are fans of yours — it was at a party after work in September the day we had Bruce Campbell signing at our store. We talked about your books and other authors we read. Talked about stuff not having to do with work, also.

I even told them about this letter writing window as soon as I found out.

Now, I don’t know how this works. I don’t really know how the publishing industry works as far as signing tours — if the publisher or agent or publicist or author has the final say in what happens. Where you go…

But it is my goal to, next year when your book Rant comes out, do all that I can to get you to our store for a signing.

Our store’s Community Relations Manager is Caddie Morgan. She can be reached by phone at 775-823-2986, or by email at crm2938@bn.com. Our store’s address is 5555 South Virginia Street, Reno, NV 89502.

After the calendar flips over to 2007, I will let her know of my goal, and see how much she has to do with getting authors into our store.

I know we’re not Vegas — a huge city with immediate name recognition. But Reno is a four hour drive from Sacramento/Northern California, and has an international airport. We are a twenty-four hour town with casinos that have anything ranging from skanky to swanky hotel rooms. And I know enough people would show up to almost effectively shut down our store, and that would be the most awesome thing ever!

You can pass this information on to your “people” or just dismiss these ramblings. But at least I’ve taken this first step toward my goal…

In closing, I don’t need a package. I got one last time, and it seems greedy to do all of this again when there are people doing this for the first time. Spend your time on their stuff. A letter back will be fine. A visit to the Barnes & Noble in Reno, Nevada next year would be above and beyond (just gotta give it one push to try to work those powers of suggestion)…

Thank you. Thank You.

This is what I am sending to him this week... The letter window is open again until the end of the month.

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