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Sunday, February 24, 2013

Finding The Why.

The silence at the table was deafening.

Roughly twelve women from all walks of life sat in open shock of the words coming out of my mouth so easily as I aired my musty laundry to them as someone might talk about buying a house or dealing with parent -teacher conferences -- nearly bored with the details, edging on the cusp of embarrassed to be even giving attention to the banality of it all.

We were there in the Pathfinder session of the BlogHer conference, in the session dedicated to turning our blogs into books, and when asked what my book would be about, I briefly talked about the almost-divorce.

And was met with a solid beat of nothing but wide eyes, dropped jaws, and hands on decolletages.

Finally, one woman swallowed and took a breath before she formed her response.

She stammered slightly as she acknowledged the stranger-than-fiction story I had just put forth, telling me it was remarkable and certainly one she'd like to hear more about.

But why, she said with a furrowed brow, would people want to read this?

It was my turn to be shocked silent.

I didn't have a good answer.

The women at the table piped up then, together, and I heard everything from how it might be something I need to write more for me than for actual publishing, or that I shouldn't write it as memoir but as fiction because it might be more marketable that way, and the slightly stinging comment that it would be great for a Lifetime movie script.

Someone asked what I wanted to call it, were I to write it, and again I had no solid response, any half-processed working title quickly thrown aside in rejection for simple, blunt one-word monikers that yes, sounded fit for a cable channel production.

I tried hard not to hang my head, not to let my cracking resolve show, and most of all not let the angry tears even begin to show to these women I was thrown into the fire of a small-group session with.

They nodded in agreement with each other, deciding tacitly that they had solved my problem for me, the youngest one at the table, about my book, that it would be better fiction and perhaps a labor of love and not anything marketable, but good for me that I wanted to take my experiences the choices I made and feel so strongly about sharing my story.

And it was the next woman's turn to tout her book.

These are the questions that have been quietly haunting me for the last six months.

What would I call it and why would people want to read it?

I know I haven't talked much in detail about how that entire time went down -- sure, I've provided the bare bones from time to time -- but I've purposely held back because I knew, once it was primarily over and the dust had begun to settle, that if ever my life were to have a story worth telling, this time in my life would be it.

Yet, whenever I become certain that I have something worth sharing in my head, waiting for me to dedicate it to screen, I hear those women's voices and see their frowning faces as they recovered form the truth that I'd laid before them.

And, I hesitate. I hold back because I don't have the answers to those questions. I don't know what the hell to call my life story, and I can't validate why it would be a story other people would want to read other than I just think they would.

But I'm still struggling with the why



  1. To be blunt: everyone goes through crap. Sometime, reading about someone in a similar situation going through the same crap and coming through the other side ok is invaluable.

    So, 1) If we're going to write about our lives, our children (or lack thereof, or desire for...), our husbands, our families, our houses... Sometimes, the houses are built backwards, and parents are difficult, and children don't happen when we want them to, and marriage can hurt our soul more than we thought possible. Knowing that it's possible to make it through and find happiness/contentment/family is a comfort.

    2) The stories we tell matter, and setting the standard of "what people want to hear" as perfect happiness is selling ourselves short. We've got to be able to express our lives with more complexity than that, for crying out loud.

    3) Why am I getting a Betty Draper-like censure feeling from this? Because "my marriage is perfect even as it's crumbling apart, look at this pretty ottoman and ignore the tears, pls" sounds like the blog-version of the 50s, and it didn't work really well then, either.

  2. Ok, so I have a lot of thoughts about this. I'd like to preface them by saying that those women meant well and probably didn't realize what they were doing and I heart their faces. That being said, they can eff the eff right off. Cause in my caugh7caugh years as a creative writing major, I learned that the WORST thing you can do is damage someone's fragile creator self, even with your "constructive and helpful" criticism. That should have never happened. Other things I know: PEOPLE NEED TO READ BOOKS ABOUT SIMILAR EXPERIENCES. It's good for the soul. Someone else will read your story and feel a connection to you and it will change them in profound ways to know they're not alone. That is POWERFUL and in my opinion, that is everything. ALSO: Think of every book ever written back in the day -- piles upon piles of tragedies that are "classics" and millions upon billions of people clamor to read stories about plague, war, romance gone bad, hell and the likes. They serve valuable purposes, such as entertaining us, teaching us something about ourselves and the human condition and so on and so forth. I mean, I was hooked on those 80's books where someone loses a leg or gets leukemia or dies in a car crash like they were illegal substances. Your story is yours and your purpose is not to define how others will experience it. Your job is to tell your story and put it in the world. That's it. Right now you're tasked with putting those women's voices in a jar and tightening the lid. Because they were wrong. I'm also emailing you something that I think you'll find really inspiring.

  3. Wow! Roselyne said it better than I could.