Recently, my good friends at The Stoneslide Corrective published “The Redemption of Oren Barry,” which is perhaps the Best Short Story I Have Ever Written (although I have a real soft spot for “Late Night On Rt. 17“). “Redemption” was a story I had given up on until I saw their short story contest on Twitter, and when I got the email saying that I had been named an Honorable Mention, well, it was one of the happiest days of my writing career. Editor Jonathan Weisberg wrote in his email “I have a real affection for “The Redemption of Oren Barry; it was a great pleasure to read” when I thanked him for including it in the honorable mentions. When I suggested he publish it, he agreed, because he’s awesome like that.
“Redemption” is a milestone for me, a marker of a moment when my writing style shifted. From age 20 to about 26, I was writing primarily nasty, gritty crime fiction, with some insanely terrible literary-type work in-between that showed no regard for story structure or character depth, just me working out my narcissistic, emotional garbage. I had just been let go from my adjunct teaching position at SUNY Cobleskill, and was suffering from a bad shoulder injury caused by slipping on ice outside my office. So I don’t know if it was the painkillers, or my binge-watching Ray McKinnon movies and Justified or what, but one night I dreamed of this.