“Utah Died for Your Sins” is the first story I ever submitted for publication. It was grabbed by the first magazine I submitted it to, a literary magazine out of Santa Cruz called Quarry West. Raymond Carver found the story and successfully nominated it for the Pushcart Prize. Rolling Stone, in their review of the Pushcart Prize anthology, singled me out as a raw new voice in American fiction. This is the story that was there from the beginning, has been read in venues ranging from SUNY writers conferences to classrooms and coffee houses to the PEN New Writers Series, and is closest to my heart.
I remember reading it at a SUNY conference in Binghamton, New York when I was teaching at SUNY Oswego. Fresh out of Utah, the new kid on the block, I was the last “official” reader on the last day of the conference. Long haired, wearing a ragged flannel shirt and ripped-out jeans and busted cowboy boots, I don’t think anyone expected much of me. Had I looked up while I was reading, I would have seen my students way up in the back row, passing a pint of Jack Daniels back and forth. But I was too scared to look up. When I finished reading, the auditorium was silent. Fine, I figured. I hadn’t expected too much of myself either. And so I said “thank you” and walked away from the podium. And that was when the place exploded. I looked out at hundreds of people on their feet, yelling, clapping, whistling. Too many to be just my students. And then John Gardner — the October Light John — took the two big steps that brought him up on stage where he took my hand and vigorously started shaking it while saying, “As Tolstoy once said to Dostoyevsky, what a terrible, beautiful story!”
The story is available on Amazon as a Kindle book and on Barnes and Noble as a Nook book. I priced it at the minimum limit of 99 cents on both sites because they wouldn’t let me give it away. So here I am, giving it away, as a .pdf file. You can have your own copy by purchasing from Amazon or Barnes & Noble