Nov. 17, 2022 – And he wrote about what drugs do to your soul, about letting yourself be molested for a hit, about stealing a woman’s purse in desperate pursuit of the next high. Sanchez was following the standard M.F.A. edict: “Write what you know.” He ripped through 40 pages that day by resurrecting the awful decisions his “lizard brain” made during his own lost teen years.

He had been a hopeless addict — hopeless in the sense that nothing stopped him from using, not family or the endless ricochet between jail, rehab and the streets, and hopeless in the sense that he sometimes saw no point in even trying to escape his hell. “I was really troubled, I was very angry and filled with despair,” recalls Sanchez, now 30, 10 years sober and living with his girlfriend in his hometown of Tampa, where he has been working in construction while waiting for his debut publication.

As he worked more slowly over the next few years to recapture the magic of that first blast, he repeatedly reread “The Things They Carried,” Tim O’Brien’s seminal story collection about an American platoon fighting in Vietnam. “It is about memory and pain and suffering, and it just stood out to me as something special, born from personal experience, devoid of self-pity but mind-expanding and heart-expanding. I spent a lot of time trying to figure out how he did it and how I could do it in my own way.”


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