The best part was reading the other essays and stories in the magazine, all of which are wonderful. I was especially excited to read "Sylvia Plath and Truman Capote" by Brian Kiteley. In it, he used parts of Plath's published diaries as a jumping off point for an imagined encounter between Plath and Capote. The narrative captures her voice well in that it is equal parts beautiful and disturbing.
But I was first excited to see his name in the magazine because I love his book The 3a.m. Epiphany. It is the best writing book I've ever encountered. Instead of posing exercises that purport to teach a specific skill (describe a rock in order to practice description), he uses highly specific prompts that get you out of the normal rut. I don't leave home without this book.
One of my favorite exercises is #61, Character Building. In it, you write a story in which two people create a fictional character over the course of several conversations. It's a chance to use the urge to gossip in an artistic way. I love it and have used it several times. The whole book is like that. There is a story under every draft, every attempt to create. It's an antidote to this notion that every story is a failure and that the job of a writer is to fail better next time. When I use this book, I have the opposite feeling. I feel that every draft is a partial success, that it is at the very least a fun and exciting way to spend some time.
Anyway, he and I are in the same magazine. I feel elevated and important today.