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KAPOW! celebrating ten years at
KAPOW! Decade of Reading essay contest
What was your most memorable reading experience of the last ten years?

To celebrate the tenth anniversary of, we're asking readers worldwide to describe their most memorable reading experience of the past ten years. To get you started, a few well-known writers and Powell's employees have already taken the question for a spin. Here is one of their answers.
How I Paid for College: A Novel of Sex, Theft, Friendship and Musical Theater

How I Paid for College: A Novel of Sex, Theft, Friendship and Musical Theater
by Marc Acito

"Acito proves himself worthy of whatever praise people may want to throw his way....The outsider edge...never devolves into snobbishness and keeps the free-form story humming hilariously along." Kirkus Reviews
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(Used - Hardcover)

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The Artist's Way:  A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity: A Course in Discovering and Recovering Your Creative Self

The Artist's Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity: A Course in Discovering and Recovering Your Creative Self
by Julia Cameron

List Price $16.99
Your Price: $8.95
(Used - Trade Paper)

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Marc Acito Takes the Artist's Way

I should have been happy, but I wasn't. I mean, after nearly ten years of pursuing an operatic career, I had finally scratched my way to the middle. Proving that sheer ambition trumps natural talent, I had parlayed a minor vocal gift into an occupation playing an odd assortment of singing hunchbacks, drunk sidekicks and mad scientists. Still, I wasn't satisfied. Directors kept telling me that what I was doing onstage was certainly, well, original, but I didn't seem to be in the same opera as everyone else. I looked around and thought, "But my opera is so much more interesting."

What's more, I had spent thousands of dollars and still hadn't "found my voice," as if it were hidden under a bush, like an Easter egg. Then I read The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron, a book that changed the course of my life.

Cameron's intimidatingly subtitled Course in Discovering and Recovering Your Creative Self is more fun than it sounds and made me realize that creativity is born out of enthusiasm, not discipline; that what separates artists from civilians is our courage to follow seemingly incomprehensible obsessions. "As an artist," Cameron writes, "I may poke into what other people might think of as dead ends: a punk band I mysteriously fall for [or] a piece of red silk I just like and add to a nice outfit, thereby 'ruining it.'"

So I started small, expressing myself in doggerel, Ogden Nash-y verse:

I want to make art
As much as I fart.
Art straight to the heart,
Like Cupid's dart.
It need not be smart
Or avant gart,
I just wish I could start
To make me some art.

Eighteen months later, I was in Dublin on a gig and using every spare moment to write an exceedingly mediocre short story, which I nonetheless indulged like a favored concubine. Looking up from my pad to see the time, I thought to myself, "Damn. Now I've gotta go to work."

The thought chilled me, and not just because my flat lacked central heating. Here I was on the eve of a career milestone — my European operatic debut — and I felt like I had to report to the salt mines. I figured if I was going to hate my job, it'd be a lot easier to hate it at home.

So, at the age of thirty-two, I cancelled my remaining engagements, got a day job that I did indeed hate, and started writing in earnest.

Six years later, The Artist's Way still guides me in my new life as a full-time writer, reminding me of the importance of restocking the creative pond as it gets diminished. And after selling my first novel (as well the movie, audio, and foreign rights), I don't question my cockamamie compulsions anymore, whether it's wearing a pink tutu in public or driving to a replica of Stonehenge in the middle of the night. Being silly is my job.

Most importantly, not only did The Artist's Way give me the freedom to be my most audacious self, it also allowed me to accomplish as a writer what I had failed to do as a singer: I finally found my voice.

Marc Acito, 2004

About Marc Acito
Marc Acito's debut novel, How I Paid for College: A Novel of Sex, Theft, Friendship and Musical Theater, will be published in September by Doubleday/Broadway. Hailed as the "gay Dave Barry," the Portland-based humorist writes the syndicated column "The Gospel According to Marc," which appears in nineteen newspapers nationwide. His website is

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