Robert Olen ButlerIt’s odd how a thing long forgotten can suddenly return to your life in a cluster of separate incidents.  Recently, the literary journal Short Story devoted an issue to my work and asked to reprint the first story I published.  Now the estimable Fictionaut has independently arrived at the same notion.  I have twice in the past year returned to that first publication, a short story entitled “Moving Day,” reading it myself as if someone else had written it.

It appeared in the October, 1974, issue of Redbook.  I wrote it in the midst of my early, autodidactic days of striving to be an artist, when I was mostly writing pretty badly by the standards I was trying to set for myself.  But this is a good story.  For a brief time, I had access to the roiling heat of my unconscious before I drew back into the cool willfulness of my mind, where things were safe and mediocre.  It would take seven more years–with my novel The Alleys of Eden-before I would publish again from my artistic unconscious.

There are twelve full-length plays, 44 short stories, and five novels–all, thankfully, unpublished–from those days of struggle and failure.  To my creative writing students, I have always referred to that output as “my million words of dreck.”  I can’t remember a word from those stories and novels and plays, and I am reluctant to go back and look.  “Moving Day,” however, pleasantly surprised me.

I wrote the story about a year after returning from my tour of Army duty in Vietnam.  I was living on 13th Street in New York City.


Line Breaks is a regular feature in which accomplished authors introduce and share their first published stories with the Fictionaut community. Line Breaks is edited by Gary Percesepe.

  1. 1 “A Million Words of Dreck” « Nine Long Nights

    […] much, but I’ve linked to it so you can form your own opinion of it. What interested me were some comments he made in his introduction to the story: I wrote it [“Moving Day”] in the midst of my early, […]

  2. 2 Fiction Writers Review » Blog Archive » Fuck Sentimentality: An Interview with Robert Olen Butler

    […] You can read Butler’s first published story, “Moving Day” on Fictionaut (originally published in a 1974 issue of Redbook) as well as his introduction to it on Fictionaut’s blog. […]

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