I started to take writing seriously when I was 11 years old. Never was interested in, or much good at, any craft, trade, or profession, but I never thought of writing as a career path. Until I was in my mid-thirties, the closest I ever came to journalism was my paper route; I wrote poetry and fiction. I got a degree in English, then a graduate degree in creative writing, and then a weird thing happened: I started writing a weekly editorial column for a college paper in Iowa City. I liked it right away, mainly because I suddenly had a much larger group of readers. It was a major rush, and it felt great.
I don’t usually think about readers when I write. Writing for me is both a way of figuring out what I think (and why) and also an ongoing effort to figure out how to tell a story. But that’s not an intellectual exercise or a ‘process’ or anything but one guy typing, so the less conscious I am of anything beyond the keyboard — readers, editors, my neighbor’s leaf blower — the better off I am.
Writing The Whore of Akron was different. I was conscious of a nation of Cleveland fans who are just as — maybe more — crazy, frustrated, hungry, and pissed off than I am. It wasn’t just about LeBron, who in a lot of ways is no more than another unhappy ending; it was also about a city that has been mocked, scorned, and pitied for decades. I knewplenty of Clevelanders and expats would read it. I knew I was speaking for them, for better and for worse. I saw that as a privilege, and I took it more seriously than anything else about the book.
I’ve gotten a ton of love in return. Great letters — and not just from Cleveland fans — full of kindness, gratitude, and encouragement. I’m trying to answer those letters with more than a simple ‘thank you,’ and it’s going to take some time. Meanwhile, I wanted to say thanks in a more general way. To a writer and a Cleveland fan, nothing could mean more.