Definition of a Dysfunctional Human Being

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Many of you have noticed the activity on the site lately, the five essays I published over the past two months:

“Blurry”

“Clutch”

“Look”

“Represent”

“Open”

Simple concepts, universal themes that I hoped everybody could relate to while still acknowledging that this is meRaw. Uncut. Digging beneath the surface to reveal the true self, dealing with restrained demons, accepting me for who I am, [insert any of the other psychobabble phrases/cliches I've had to listen to over the years].

Basically, five pieces of nonfiction written by me for the exact reason I ever picked up a pen and paper in the first place: to figure out why my head is so screwed up.

I wrote these essays over the span of four years between undergrad and graduate school, and until now have had them sitting on my computer just–quite literally–taking up space (not a lot of space, obviously, but space nonetheless).

Never sent them out to magazines for potential publication, never even really considered trying to have anybody look at them other than the few of my colleagues who helped me revise them over the years.

And sure, these essays are creative nonfiction. On some level they’re meant to entertain, yes, but they’re also meant to be an outlet for issues I can’t talk about candidly in real life (which pretty much applies to all my issues).

In other words, these essays were/are therapy. My actual thoughts, the inclinations and ideas and memories that make up who I am, make me tick from day to day. Which therefore made them much too personal for public consumption.

So I filed them away and didn’t really think much of it. Set to work on the marketable stuff, the funny stuff, the suspenseful stuff, stories that would entertain people. Make them laugh, not cry.

And so it went for years, these essays tucked into a folder deep in my portfolio, collecting the equivalent of digital dust.

Then one day, a month and a half ago–couple of days after Quarter Life Crisis was published, actually–I was in a nostalgic mood and decided to go back and read one of the essays, “Open”, the story of my two friends who were murdered in cold blood one night when I was almost nineteen.

I wrote “Open” as an undergrad at Florida State about three years after the incidents in the story took place, a couple of months after I was made to testify in the trial of my friends’ murderer, Jonathon Nodal. “Open” was written, initially, for a nonfiction workshop class, and when my professor–Ned Stuckey-French–read it he immediately told me to revise it and send it out. He had connections, he said, and I  should come to him when I was ready.

Which seemed like not too bad an idea at the time. I mean, this was what I was aspiring to be, right? A Published Author, capital P and A (also my initials. Coincidence? …Yeah, definitely, but still kind of cool). And sure, I considered myself primarily a fiction writer, but a publication is a publication.

Work went on throughout that semester and the next, and–along with my other works–I kept tinkering with “Open” (titled “Knock at the Door” back then), hoping to be able to hand it over to Ned one day and see where it ended up.

Yet, after months of messing around with structure and details and the exact progression of my memories, the essay was still affecting me in a way that made it hard to put in front of other people. I’d print it out and be ready to mail it off, then leave the manila folder sitting on my desk and never make it to the post office, or I’d look at a magazine’s submission requirements and find something small that made me sure they’d reject the story outright and that I should just not send it to them at all. Eventually I had to admit to myself that I just wasn’t ready to put the experience out there.

The beginning of my senior year at FSU, there was a writing contest in the English department, a categorical competition leading to the presentation of Spring writing awards given to undergraduate and graduate students every year.

At the announcement, Ned urged me to enter “Open” in the nonfiction portion. I was skeptical at first, having already figured out that putting that particular essay out there for public viewing wasn’t an ideal situation for me.

Sit and wait around while people pored over it? Analyzed it, dissected it and, ultimately, told me it wasn’t good enough?

Hell no. Karen and Justin deserve more than that.

But Ned was enthusiastic, and he was (and still is) a renowned professor in one of the most recognized creative writing programs in the country; if he said “Open” was good enough, then I’d take his word for it.

The day I won the George and Ruth Yost Award for Best Personal Essay, I was happy. At first. I got the email notifying me I’d won, that I’d be receiving a plaque acknowledging the award and a check for $100–not a lot of money, but definitely a decent chunk of change for any college  student (at the time it was a common thing to find me digging for coins in my couch just to buy some ramen noodles). I was elated. Not just that I’d won an award or that I got some money for it, but that I had won an award for my writing.

You see, up to that point, I’d been writing in the dark. Sure, people had told me that I had some talent, that I had passion (whatever that meant). But I had been at it for years by that point and had yet to get anything published. I’d written story after story and even made a three-hundred page effort at writing a horror novel, and all I’d received were rejection letter after rejection letter.

After my recent failed attempt to get into various graduate programs across the country (rejected by every single one that first time around), the industry was starting to get to me. I still had another two semesters of undergrad left, and a couple more workshops to refine my ability, but I was crashing. I seriously needed some motivation, a kind word, anything.

And I got it when I won that award. And it really helped. For like…a day.

Then I deposited the check, used it to pay part of my rent–I lived in Tallahassee, rent was like $350 a month or something crazy cheap like that–then sat down in front of my computer to look over what had just won me that money. I started to read the essay again, this time in a new light, with validation and a sense that my future as a writer had become very promising. Then I finished it, and I was suddenly so dejected that I couldn’t really do anything but just sit there crying at my computer with the blinds in my apartment drawn while I read the words I’d written about my friends and ex-girlfriend over and over again and thought about how my first bit of recognition as an aspiring writer would occur because of their death.

I decided right then I wasn’t going to publish that essay. I wasn’t going to send it out and risk rejection letters, risk critiques, risk succumbing to the ever-present anger that I’d been doing such a good job (or a better job) of keeping control of up to that point.

So I filed it away. For years. Came back to check on it every once in a while, read the words and remind myself about what had happened (not exactly necessary, seeing as there’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think about them), but ultimately keeping it to myself.

Cut to a few months ago, staring at the essay once again on my computer. Thirty years old now, an author with a published novel and a dozen or so published short stories under my belt, and I’d suddenly had an entire paradigm shift.

Suddenly, I wanted nothing more than for people to read about my friends, read about what had happened to them, read about how it had and still does affect me as a writer and as a human being. How it shaped me, motivated me, depressed me, nearly killed me, and ultimately brought me into adulthood in the most violent way possible.

But the fear of rejection still sat inside me, the thought that I wouldn’t be able to handle the inevitable form letters I’d receive if I sent it to a mainstream magazine.

So I figured I’d do it myself, on this medium here, this blog I’ve been using to promote my work for over two years now.

It was then I realized I had done the same thing–filed away for sentimental reasons–to a couple of other essays I’d written over the years, essays that had started out as me trying to tell a true story, essays that turned into declarations of the heart and ultimately helped me get over some crucial moment in my life, gaining so much emotional weight that the thought of them sitting on some apathetic editor’s desk (not a knock against you editors; I’ve been there, I know how daunting that slush pile can be) made me sick to my stomach.

So I decided to publish them all on here, and once that was done I’d compile them into a single short eBook. And since these essays define who I am, I would call the eBook Definition, and give it away for free.

Because I don’t want to be angry about this shit anymore.

Because I don’t want to sit alone with my own thoughts in my head anymore.

Because one thing I’ve realized over these years of rehabbing on society is that you’ve got to open up to the people around you if you ever want to grow into a functioning individual.

And I don’t really know any way of opening up more than this.

_____________________

Download Definition for free by clicking on the cover:

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Preorder Quarter Life Crisis or Live a Life Full of Regret

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So, apparently the pre-order links for Quarter Life Crisis are going to be coming out one by one, which only slightly makes me want to grow my hair to the point that I can grip it just so I can yank it out of my goddamn head.

But that’s just me.

Here’s the link for the print version of QLC at Amazon. Eventually, there should be links to preorder the ebook version on here, along with the ebook and print versions at Barnes and Noble, the ebook version at Apple, the print version at Lulu, and wherever else my distributor decides to offer the thing for sale. Right now though, Amazon’s what we got, with an exclusive sales price for preorder.

So click the link and buy the book before it comes out on August 5th, because it’s just what awesome people do.

And if you haven’t yet, check out the sample at GetOverCollege.com so you know what you’re getting yourself into.

Happy Monday to all (hopefully).

-PAJr.

My Obligatory 30th Birthday Post

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Heh heh…puppies…

So, another year, another notch on that birthday belt (I don’t actually own a birthday belt—that’d be weird—I just like the image…I picture it having balloons and streamers and candy and other shit hanging from the buckle…)

The big 3-0. No longer in my 20’s, I guess it’s time to start acting like an adult.

Or not (pssshhh, fuck that nonsense).

On this day (which started with 60 happy birthday texts from two of my friends; love you guys), I can’t help looking back at the last 10 years of my life to take stock of where I’m at now in relation to where I wanted to be back then (because I’m the first person who’s ever done that on his 30th birthday, right? Right).

There’s not very much I remember about turning 20. It didn’t start out a very good year; I didn’t start it out a very good person (for you mathematically challenged individuals, this was back in 2004). Spent a lot of time demonstrating exactly how stupid a 20 year old can act when he has absolutely no idea what he wants to do with his life. That streak of unfettered debauchery only lasted the first half of the year though, as that summer was the summer I decided to go back to school and pursue writing as a career.

Since then, I’ve done a few things with my time:

Spent seven years getting an AA, BA, and MFA.

Published a bunch of short stories and a short story collection.

Lived in Tallahassee, Orlando, Manhattan, and last year embarked on my second stint in Miami (totally different than the first, let me tell you).

I’ve dated a lot, been single a lot, made friends, lost friends, resumed friendships with people I thought I lost.

I’ve fought, loved, cried, laughed (often maniacally), and had a grand total of 11 different jobs (six of which were in the restaurant industry).

Yet today, I woke up and all I could think about was not these past achievements and failures, but rather what my future holds.

Full disclosure: I’m not where I wanted to be when I was 20, looking forward to this new decade. Which isn’t to say I haven’t achieved anything (my expectations at that age were lofty, to put it mildly). I just remember thinking that, at 30, I’d be there.

You know where there is too, dammit. That dream life.

I thought back then that, at 30, I’d have the house, the wife, the kid(s), the dog with a backyard. I’d also have one—if not two—published novels, with enough attention from them to warrant becoming a full-time author. I’d be fully safe and sound in my life and career path, and I’d have everything figured out already, ready to approach the future with a confidence that can only be derived from security.

None of those things exist in my life right now though.

Except the only one that matters: confidence.

Through the support of friends and family, my students and colleagues, and everybody who’s read my writing and been vocal about their opinions, I’ve managed to end up exactly where I wanted to be at this age because of you, even though I haven’t checked off a single item on that list. Which is why I can honestly say I’m happier today than I can remember being on my last five birthdays.

Funny how shit works like that.

So, I’ll raise my imaginary shot glass (I have classes to teach ‘til later tonight so, yes, imaginary; don’t worry though, it’ll be a very real glass when I meet up with my friends in a few hours…no tequila) and toast to my friends, family, future, and the futures of everybody I love and have the privilege to be loved by.

I’ve got momentum now, people. And experience.

A combo like that?

Shit…I’ll just let Kanye and Jay explain it:

Short Story: The Simple Life

Patrick Anderson Jr

Park Bench in Toronto

Tom starts the last six months of his life sitting on a bench next to a woman in a white dress.

Staring at the sky, cloudless and cool, Tom notices a draft blowing in from the south, smelling faintly of pine. Tom smiles at this and glances at the woman in the white dress as she chastises a young boy. She does this sparingly, with much care, and ends the encounter with a pat on the back and a light shove towards the playground. Tom splits his attention between the woman and his own daughter, hanging from the jungle gym. Eventually, he turns to face the woman.

“Hi,” Tom says, and the woman glances up at him as he holds out his hand. “I’m Tom.”

The woman smiles and tells him her name. After a pause, she adds “That’s my son, Carl.”

“You don’t have to do that,” Tom says.

The woman, taken aback, says, “Do what?”

“Tell me that’s your child. I know he’s your child. It’s obvious he’s your child.”

The woman immediately scoffs, stands, says a curt goodbye and walks away.

Tom tries twice more that day–in between trips to the store, and a quick stop back home–with two more women with sons playing in the park near his daughter. And both of their reactions are the same: scoff, stand, walk away, repeat. And it is understandable, in a way. To Tom, at least. He knows what’s happening even as he’s trying to deny it, knows that the women see him as a simple, explainable man: rude, probably a pervert, potentially psychotic. Someone to get away from.

What these women don’t know about Tom is what he will never reveal to them anyways. That Tom is a father, one half the genetic code of the little blond girl with the pale skin and curly hair doing somersaults in the sand. Tom is the husband of a woman who is a mother and a wife and the most prestigious real estate broker in the area, a woman who has more than likely sold these other women the homes where they themselves are mothers and wives. Tom is son to a father who has drunk himself into an early grave, and a mother who has resorted to bingo and bridge groups for social contact in the aftermath. Tom is brother to a cokehead senator and a journalist sister who sees no problem in habitually sleeping with powerful men for the inside scoop on breaking news. Tom is a failed lawyer, a failed carpenter, a failed artist, and now a failed cancer recovery patient. Tom is all of these things on a day-to-day basis, every day except today.

Today, Tom just wants to be Tom.

Tom watches as the many kids on the playground dwindle to a dozen, then three, then two. His daughter walks up to the only other child—a little boy—and gives him a rock. The boy smiles and gives her a handful of sand. The boy’s mother sits a few benches down from Tom and he stands and approaches her slowly, smiling and holding up a hand as a greeting, a move that suggests the phrase, I come in peace. She smiles back and removes her earphones, placing her book in her lap.

“Afternoon,” Tom says. “I’m Tom.”

She glances at her son and Tom’s stomach drops.

“Sharon,” she says. “Nice to meet you, Tom.”

Tom waits, but that is all Sharon has to say.

“Mind if I take a seat?” he asks.

Sharon scoots to the side, giving him room to sit. Tom hesitates a moment then settles down onto the bench. They sit in silence, the awkwardness of the chance encounter growing until it seems to cover the entire area, blocking out everything, even their children.

“Beautiful day,” Sharon says, finally.

Tom glances at her and nods, smiling the warmest, friendliest, most genuine smile he can remember having in a long time. Because it is, indeed, a beautiful day. Because words can’t describe his agreement.

-PAJr.

Washington Pastime Interviews This Guy About “Boiling Point”

Washington Pastime
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The Washington Pastime (which originally published “Ace of Spades”, one of the stories in Boiling Point) recently interviewed me about writing and short stories and Boiling Point and the meaning of life and all that stuff.
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They posted the interview on their site this morning. Click on the link to see me give way-too-long answers to simple questions, as is typical.

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And again, pick up Boiling Point when you get a chance.
Deuces.
-PAJr.

Boiling Point Released Today!!

So, it’s official.
My first short story collection, Boiling Point, has arrived.

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Before I start giving you my spiel about why you should buy the thing, let me first show you the full cover of the print edition, just because I think it’s a damn sexy cover and I want to show off.

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full paperback cover of boiling point

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Anyways, the book is great, if I do say so myself. And I’m not just saying that because I wrote it (though I kind of am). The stories in here are a culmination of over five years of writing, revising, submitting, and joyful acceptance to various magazines. It’s got an eclectic array of subjects too, from psychotic hit-men to cannibalistic New Yorkers to crackhead junkies to stranded astronauts, with a chupacabra thrown in just for the hell of it.

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So pick up Boiling Point when you get a chance. Click whichever link below fits your reading preferences, purchase a copy, and make sure to leave a review on Barnes and Noble or Amazon when you’re done (good, bad, whatever your sentiments. Any feedback is good feedback).

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Thanks for the support, and hope you enjoy!

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Print Edition (Limited Time 25% Discount: $9.99 $7.49):

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eBook Edition ($2.99):

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