Iowa rule #4: Listen to the Southern ladies. And listen to yourself.

The thousands of nasty bugs you see all over the pavement each morning are locusts.

There are two kinds of cows: dairy and beef. Dairy cows don't belong in Texas. That's what makes it funny.

Read whenever there's an open mic. You get to know your words better that way. You feel what stumbles, where the crowd (however small) is lost. Listen for laughs, look for bored stares, sense when people are connecting. This is invaluable feedback.

Never say you'll come back, as much as you hope you can. Be responsible and talk about kids and the price of weddings and the price of vacation days. Secretly wonder about doing a MFA. Secretly wish you were free to move to a place like Iowa for two years. Secretly realize you don't want to.

But still, make a promise. Promise it to whatever you believe in, gods or Gods or the universe or main characters named Margaret. You will find time to write. You will give up what you need to. You are a writer.

It's part of the job.

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