Thursday, March 29, 2018

A Powerful Quick Share From Jen Louden


All I have to say is Wow.

Here's a recent Jen Louden blog post, wherein she reveals the memoir she has worked on for the last four years doesn't work. The title is My Memoir Doesn't Work and Why I Am Not Devastated About It.

My favorite part is in the middle, but read all of it:

What I mainly feel is light and peaceful. That’s because I have learned and changed and grown so damn MUCH from writing this book and I wouldn’t change that for anything. Writing these 500 pages (!!) has been more powerful than any personal work I have done.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Whose Death Is It, Anyway?

‘Imagine,’ I said, back then, to some friends, in an earnest attempt to explain, ‘imagine your whole family is in a room. Yes, all of them. All the people you love. So then what happens is someone comes into the room and punches you all in the stomach. Each one of you. Really hard. So you’re all on the floor. Right? So the thing is, you all share the same kind of pain, exactly the same, but you’re too busy experiencing total agony to feel anything other than completely alone. That’s what it is like!’     
-Helen MacDonald, H is for Hawk 
Today is the 28th anniversary of my father's death. My father. Before I revised my memoir to make the naming of various characters consistent - always calling my mom's dad Bapa, always calling Dad by that name instead of "my dad" or "my father," a reader noted that whenever I referred to Dad, I used the first person possessive. "My father's death," I would write, as if the death happened to only me, or to only him and I was the only child.

Only, I am not. I am the youngest of three. And my siblings definitely suffered.

My memoir is about my loss, not about theirs. But I still found it an uncanny consistency that I didn't call him, "our father." It's how I tell my story - this is my loss, and not just because I am owning my story, but because in my story, I am alone.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Why Navel Gazing Isn't An Insult

Wow. Where Have I Been?
October of 2017 ate me alive and only recently has spit me back out.

So as I re-group and get my weekly blog schedule going again, I am going to just put this amazing powerful holy fuck interview with Melissa Febos right here for you to read...

Some juicy key quotes:
"It is a concern I have heard from countless students and peers, and which I always greet with a combination of bafflement and frustration. Since when did telling our own stories and deriving their insights become so reviled? It doesn’t matter if the story is your own, I tell them over and over, only that you tell it well. We must always tell stories so that their specificity reveals some universal truth. "

"I am complicit. I have committed this betrayal of my own experience innumerable times. But I am done agreeing when my peers spit on the idea of writing as transformation, as catharsis, as—dare I say it—therapy. Tell me, who is writing in their therapeutic diary and then dashing it off to be published? I don’t know who these supposedly self-indulgent (and extravagantly well-connected) narcissists are. But I suspect that when people denigrate them in the abstract, they are picturing women. I’m finished referring to stories of body and sex and gender and violence and joy and childhood and family as “navel-gazing.”

"I polled the audience—a room packed with a few hundred readers and writers. I asked for a show of hands: “Who here has experienced an act of violence, abuse, extreme disempowerment, sexual aggression, harassment, or humiliation?” The room fell silent as the air filled with hands."

"Who was I, a twenty-six-year-old woman, a former junkie and sex worker, to presume that strangers should find my life interesting? I had already learned that there were few more damning presumptions than that of a young woman thinking her own story might be meaningful. Besides, I was writing a Very Important Novel. Just like Jonathan Franzen or Philip Roth or Hemingway, those men of renowned humility.

“No way,” I told my professor. I was determined to stick to my more humble presumption that strangers might be interested in a story made up by a twenty-six-year-old former junkie sex worker.
Do you see how easy it is to poke holes in this logic?"