Reverb10: December 5

Today’s prompt is from one of my favourite bloggers, Alice Bradley of Finslippy.

December 5 – Let Go. What (or whom) did you let go of this year? Why?

A few days ago in NYC, Andrew and I were taking a mid-afternoon break at the Ninth Avenue Vintner (because cheese and alcohol is exactly the kind of pick-me-up you need when you’re walking all over Manhattan, right?). My phone rang, I answered it and it was my cousin calling all the way from Greece to tell me that he’d just finished reading my book! And he was excited! He loved it! And he wanted to talk to me about it! I decided to accept insane roaming charges because it’s always nice to hear someone say nice things about you, even if they’re related to you and contractually obligated to do so. But then he said something strange. He said, “I love how you killed off your father in one of your stories! SO FUNNY!” And then he continued trying to connect parts of my real life to my stories.  I took a big gulp of wine.

This wasn’t the first conversation I’ve had like this. A few weeks ago at dinner, one of my friends asked me, “Hey, so have you made out in a storage warehouse before?”. At work, I was making photocopies and a co-worker came up to me to tell me that she’d finished my book and she wanted to know what “really happened” at the end of “Baby Teeth”. My own mother, on Skype, delightedly told me that she was glad there was a character based on her.

Gah! What? Guys! Discussion about whether or not my stories are based on or stolen from real life make me uncomfortable! I didn’t write the book to kill off my own father or confess to anything I might have done in my past. And hey, if I did? I don’t want to talk about it. It’s funny, really, these questions and curiosities, and I don’t blame them because the book now belongs to the rest of the world, not just me, and it can be scrutinized any way a reader wants. For someone who has kept so much of my fiction writing to myself for years, it’s a vulnerable feeling knowing that my stories are out there, running around and having their own little lives without me. I know most of this defensiveness stems from Bats or Swallows being my first book – I will toughen up eventually – but sometimes I can only shake my head at the weirdness of it all. It’s funny and I’m grateful for it, but man, sometimes it’s just weird.

So, yeah, I let go of my first book. Enjoy it, world.

6 thoughts on “Reverb10: December 5

  1. I can absolutely relate to this–from writing fiction and even now, with nonfiction. I’m always amazed at the weird interpretations other people give my work. But as you said, once you’ve written it and sent it out there, it’s no longer yours.

    Nice answer to today’s prompt!

  2. Caro – Ha! Lita can be whatever character she wants to be.

    Alice – Thanks for the good prompt! I can imagine that writing non-fiction is even more complicated because there’s less ambiguity…

    Melanie – It is definitely surreal. Actually, it happened again today at work. Someone asked me to explain what a story “meant”, which always makes me feel kinda ridiculous.

  3. I get this too! Even having to explain what a story “meant” (which always makes it sound so stupid and oversimplified). I think people are always kind of suspicious (but not in a bad way, if that makes any sense) of having a writer in their lives and expect the writer to draw from all sources, including them. My father thinks everything I write is 100% taken from my life and not necessarily my imagination. Remember that story I wrote long ago about the couple who steals a baby? Dad went to Mom all worried about what this story Said about me and my mental state/what I was into. I think it’s because he doesn’t read fiction, or maybe because he’s just my dad. I’ve just started saying to people, “I’m a writer. I invent things. My real life is boring.”

    This is why I was so anxious about making one of my recent stories as un-autobiographical as possible, though I imagine people will try to find the autobiographical in anything one writes!

  4. Sam, so funny/weird about your dad worrying about your mental state! As IF you were actually thinking about stealing a baby!

    I don’t blame people for trying to extrapolate autobiography from fiction (I know I’m guilty of it sometimes, and I should really know better), but I’d rather they just not tell me about it :)

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