Way back in 1993, James Conaway published his memoir MEMPHIS AFTERNOONS. Not long after that, he came to Memphis for what was then the River City Writers series of lectures at the University of Memphis. I went to a reading and signing of the book, and we later met for drinks at Old Zinnie’s in Midtown. I was writing then, though I never would have said of myself, “I’m a writer.” It was all too new for me, I was an unfocused and gangly 23-year-old, still green on the vine. But I wrote every day and I told Jim this and he told me that, if that were the case, then I was already far ahead of many of the graduate students he’d taught. He implored me to continue. I didn’t ask him to read anything I’d written and, blessedly, he didn’t ask to see any. I can’t imagine what I might have been working on then, but know for a fact it would have gone down bitterly, with an aftertaste of youth and angst throughout.
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