Throwback Thursday: Here is me in Wyoming, 1992.
I was working on a ranch called Allen's Diamond Four, in the Wind River Range of the Wyoming Rockies (a spectacular place which you should really visit: https://bit.ly/1tG0ri7)
I was 23, and while I can't say that I really had any business being there, I was there. I was there because I was collecting stories. I had decided after college that my task was to go out in the world and have as many diverse experiences as I could possibly cobble together. I had been told, as an aspiring writer, to "write what you know" — but all I knew was that I didn't know anything yet. So I went out there to learn stuff, to see stuff, to hear stuff, to find stuff out all that I could about the world.
My strategy was this: I would work at this diner in Philadelphia for a few months at a time, taking every shift and saving all my money…then, when I got some money together, I would head out on a new adventure.
A road trip across the West had taken me circuitously to this ranch in Wyoming, and I managed to get a job there as a trail cook (!). I worked at the ranch for two seasons. I made $300 a month in one of the hardest but most exciting jobs I've ever had. And, even more importantly, I wrote down every single thing that happened to me and around me.
Those experiences became the basis for a short story called "PILGRIMS", which ended up being the first piece of writing I ever had published. In other words: IT WORKED.
All of which is to say — while it may not look like it from this photo, if you look closely, you will see that what I am actually doing in this picture is attending an elite private graduate school for creative writing.