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Author of First Read book encourages persistence

By Jennifer Ison
On September 22, 2011

When author Ron Currie Jr. first took the stage at Doermann Theatre, he told the audience, "I am a paid liar," referring to his career.

Currie Jr. visited the University of Toledo Tuesday to speak to the freshman class. He discussed his latest book, "Everything Matters," as a part of UT's annual First Read.

He wrote the book based on experiences from his own life as an adolescent with one large exception. Junior, the main character, knows when the world will end and he wonders, "does anything I do matter?"

He admitted he experienced writer's block when preparing for the speech, saying he couldn't advocate the value of higher education as a college drop out.

"Oh, delicious irony," he said.

After going back and forth between praising higher education and bashing it, Currie Jr. settled on speaking about the message he hoped the book conveyed -- persistence.

"Junior must persist like I needed to persist in my own life," Currie Jr. said.

Currie Jr. went on to discuss some of the situations he found himself in that required persistence throughout his life including two stays in a hospital ward for depression and suicidal thoughts, the death of his father and the seemingly constant rejection of his writing.

"But we persisted, he and I," Currie Jr. said, referring to Junior.

At 25, Currie Jr. said he saw himself working as a "lifer" in a restaurant if he didn't make a change. He promised himself if he couldn't sell a story by the time he turned 26, he would give up writing.

He then threw himself into his writing with seriousness like never before.

"I spent days and evenings working in restaurants and wrote all night, every night," he said.

A few weeks before his 26th birthday, his persistence paid off.

He was hired by Carve Magazine, an online publication and shortly after, Penguin Books of New York published "God is Dead."

It was the first time Currie Jr. experienced happiness and contentment. He realized life was important and things do matter.

He closed the speech by thanking the audience not for coming, but for staying.

"This has been like the academic equivalent to a gun at your back, being forced to attend for a class," he said.

Nick Mondelli, a freshman majoring in English, said he thought the presentation by Currie Jr. was more down-to-Earth than he expected.

"I thought the book was very good. Pessimistic, I guess in a way. I think from just like a literature aspect, it's deeper than it kind of makes itself out to be," Mondelli said.

Liz Pickett, a freshman majoring in biochemical engineering, said she had not read the book prior to Currie Jr.'s speech and only attended the speech because she was required to.

"I actually thought it was going to be something about chemistry so it was surprising," she said. "I want to read the book now."

According to the Office of Student Involvement, the First Read Program brings incoming students together to provide a common reading experience. Activities are designed to engage students in stimulating and intellectual discussions and strengthen critical thinking skills.

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