Every writer loves promoting their books.
I’m deep in the midst of promoting my latest book and, to tell you the truth, this time around is WAY fun. That’s because I’m sharing almost every event with a dog or two.
Dogs make everything better.
My last three books were novels – stories I made up sitting at my laptop on long afternoons and pre-dawn writing jags. I crafted characters and lived their lives- but only in my head.
The main character in my latest book, Another Good Dog: One Family and Fifty Foster Dogs, is much more real…. Me.
So instead of dreaming up my drama, I lived it.
It’s easy to take risks when writing fiction, everyone knows you’re making it up, even if they suspect you’re actually writing about them (but changed the names and distinguishing features).
It’s another thing entirely to take risks while writing memoir. Memoir is nothing if not the biggest risk an author can take.
To write memoir, you have to be willing to expose not only your heart and your life, but your family and sometimes, your friends. Which is maybe not fair, but necessary, because none of us is an island and only Tom Hanks can pull off an entire movie with only one character.
Before submitting the final manuscript to my publisher, I invited my immediate family to read the book. Two of the four took me up on it. They were both fine with it. I’m not sure why the other two didn’t read it. Maybe they trusted me or maybe they figured no one they knew would read it.
When I gave the unpublished manuscript to them it was with the caveat that while I was truly interested in their feelings about it, I also knew that this was my story- this was how I remembered and understood the events which might not be exactly as they remembered them.
That’s the rub with memoir and where plenty of authors get into trouble. Memoir is true as the author remembers it. But ask any two people about a shared experience and you’re likely to get two completely different interpretations. Our minds have filters that capture different versions of the same experience. Add time and emotion to the mix and the stories vary even more.
When creative writing students tell me that they can’t write about their lives because they might upset a family member or a friend, I always quote Ann Lamott to them-
“If they wanted you to write nicely about them, they should have behaved better.”
And that’s absolutely true.
It’s your story. It’s how you remember it and interpret it. You can’t edit it to please others; if you do, you’ll take the teeth out of your memoir. It needs to all be in there – the good, the bad, the embarrassing. You have to be brave and honest and real. Readers can smell a phony a page away.
So go ahead, lay your truth on the page, my friends.
Hey, thanks for reading. I know you’ve got lots of options, so thanks for sharing a few of your minutes with me.
If you’d like to know more about me, my books, and where you might run into me, check out my website, CaraWrites.com.
If you’d like to subscribe to my (sometimes) monthly e-newsletter, click here.
Here’s my tour schedule for the next two months – stop and see me if I’m coming to your town!