I wrote “Warren Zevon Attempts Happiness” many years ago, as part of my undergraduate creative writing thesis. It is based around true events, but is a completely fictionalized account of what might have happened to Warren Zevon (my favorite singer/songwriter) while he was living in Spain with his wife, Crystal.
But something was missing from it. It lacked “oomph” and tension, and I had no idea how to fix it, and neither did any of my undergrad thesis advisors. By the time I began my MFA program, I had mostly given up on that story.
But on a whim, I brought it to my historical fiction workshop with Katherine Ayres, who is a wonderfully insightful writer and excellent teacher. After I read the story aloud to the group, she asked me a single question: “What is the conflict here?”
It hit me like lightning. Suddenly, I knew exactly what I needed to do to make the story tense and meaningful. In retrospect, it seemed obvious. And, it worked.
Shadowgraph Quarterly, an online literary magazine that also publishes chapbooks, picked up the story for their Spring 2016 issue.
Their editors, who have hawk eyes as well, also picked out a few places where I was telling after I’d shown, and helped me trim the story down to its essentials.
I hope you enjoy it, and if you’ve never heard of Warren Zevon, here’s one of my favorite songs: