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Susan B
11-21-2007, 10:47 PM
So, the good news is my Cajun music memoir has officially been picked up by a publisher.

It does feel really good (it's been in the works for several months) but now I am facing one of the realities: my family. Especially my mom.

My book is about my midlife passion for the Cajun accordion and spends little time on childhood/family issues. But it does touch on some painful things: family losses, some issues in my mother's background.

She knows about the book, of course, and in the last few months I have been offering to let her read it. (I could certainly go more lightly in some of these areas if she had a very strong reaction.) She's insisted it's my book, I don't need her permission, when I've brought this up before.

But now it's feeling much more real to me, and I do want her to read at least the relevant sections in advance. She says she'd like to, but she's starting to make these comments about memoirs being "soul baring" and "autobiographies." Then this big revelation, like I hadn't thought of it before: Now people I've never even met will be able to learn "personal things" about me. (Being moved by music--that's something she considers "personal." Or maybe exhibitionistic.)

This doesn't involve worries about slander, legal issues, anything like that. But it makes me feel uneasy.

My mother is 84, bright and well educated. Very feisty, too. She's visiting for Thanksgiving.

Anyone else have these worries?

Susan

michelle25
11-22-2007, 02:30 AM
Congrats on your book selling! I think we all worry about the things you mentioned, but at least your mom knows about the book. The fact that she said 'it's your book' makes it seem like she's given her blessing at least somewhat. Besides, I don't think any of us, when we're writing memoirs, intend to hurt people we're close to. That should hopefully be understood by readers out there.

Susan Breen
11-22-2007, 06:10 AM
I know exactly how you feel. Although I wrote a novel and not a memoir, there are certain scenes in my book that anyone who knows me (such as my brother) would recognize as being autobiographical. He too had been supportive all along of my writing, but I was terrified, when he was reading it, that it would hurt him. Fortunately he was very understanding (and, I think, relieved to actually see something by me in print.) But it was a very long week the week he was reading my book.

Unique
11-22-2007, 10:46 AM
You scared me (on your behalf). Then you didn't. Then you did again!

Maybe you scared your mom, too. (?)

Let her get it at the library. Or on Amazon. Or from your sister. Or her sister.

But if she asks you for an autographed copy, giver her one. She is your mom.

I think you're "normal" to feel apprehensive but give your mom some credit (no, I don't know her). A lot of water passes in 80+ years and we kids don't always know all the details because sometimes they don't tell. (personal frame of reference) I hope it works out well for you. Congrats.

Ritergal
11-22-2007, 07:39 PM
When I wrote The Heart and Craft of Lifestory Writing I included a selection of lifestories I have written that mention a few personal facts about family members. I do not identify the family members by name, so only people who know me well would know who they are, and I don't mention anything remotely "revealing," but still ... I had butterflies. At least one family member (see, I'm still being protective and masking!) is a seriously private person.

The good news is that all were delighted with the book, and the one I worried most about bought extra copies to send to friends.

Life without risks would be soooo boring!

Uncarved
11-22-2007, 07:51 PM
ok, here's a what if:

What if you are writing a memoir, and a scene or three has some negativity toward a parent, some truely horrid things, but all true and back-up-able. Do you write it as it happened and hope for the best in the reaction department(from the parent) if it happens to sell and goes to the masses? I've got a particularly troubling issue to address, but its all true.

larocca
11-22-2007, 08:32 PM
I wrote a memoir, RISING FROM THE ASHES, which is as true as I can remember. I didn't change any names. It's all there for anyone who wants to know all about my sordid past. (I'm being facetious. It's not very sordid.)

The main characters are Mom, Barry (younger brother), and me. In that order. Two are dead now. I didn't say anything bad about them, either, so I assume their ghosts won't come back to haunt me.

I bashed my stepfather a bit, and if he doesn't like it, he knows where I live. Oh, wait, he might not want to come hunt me down in Thailand. I know where he lives too. I'll visit if he wants me to. I did before but he couldn't remember me. I noticed that he repaneled the wall he slammed me against when I was 7. Yeah, can't do anything to hurt the property value.

My parents divorced when I was 2. I bought a house from Daddy when I was 26. Should he feel any guilt for not being around in between? I really don't think so, but I've never given him the book, just to protect his feelings. He doesn't need to know what we went through. It'd only hurt him.

And that's how I deal with the question. I decided that I just don't care how the people in it react. I probably should've thought about Daddy before publication instead of after, but my decision would've been the same. The book really is about just how great Mom was, and I didn't want to fictionalize a damn thing.

Other authors who wrestle with this question may decide differently. I wonder what Tina will decide. Or Susan, who started the thread. Could be two different decisions.

I have given Daddy my other four published books, by the way. He said, "Son, you know I don't like to read. I haven't read a book in years. But I read your VIGILANTE JUSTICE straight through and I only drank three beers." Best book review I'll ever get.

Uncarved
11-22-2007, 09:50 PM
Thanks for that larocca.
My main thing wasn't hurting anyone, but if I were setting myself up for her to sue me later.


Also, another Q for the group:
Does dialogue have to be exactly what was said? How it is remembered be ok? I can't remember exact words except only on one or two occassions.
t

Inky
11-22-2007, 09:59 PM
If it's making you feel funny, maybe that's your voice inside knocking on the door, trying to tell you...this might not be kosher.

But, hey, you're getting published. Right?

Inky
11-22-2007, 10:02 PM
Thanks for that larocca.
My main thing wasn't hurting anyone, but if I were setting myself up for her to sue me later.


Also, another Q for the group:
Does dialogue have to be exactly what was said? How it is remembered be ok? I can't remember exact words except only on one or two occassions.
t
If you're book is non-fiction, yes. Otherwise, specify: to the best of my recollection, he/she said....

If it's fiction, the person can say whatever you want.

Be wary when slapping a memoir with the label non-fiction. You see what happened to Oprah's 'good friend' (everyone's her good friend, when she introduces them...ugh).

If it's about to be published, this should already have been worked out.

Uncarved
11-22-2007, 10:16 PM
no I'm just starting to write it. It's been eating away at me to get it down on paper. But my mother is a mean, selfish, vindictive c....person, and I fear what she'd do if I said our family truths outloud. Maybe she doesn't read though. Or I can wait til she's dead, but I'd not know when that was....
I'll just write and then figure it out.
t

Inky
11-23-2007, 12:41 AM
no I'm just starting to write it. It's been eating away at me to get it down on paper. But my mother is a mean, selfish, vindictive c....person, and I fear what she'd do if I said our family truths outloud. Maybe she doesn't read though. Or I can wait til she's dead, but I'd not know when that was....
I'll just write and then figure it out.
t

Sounds like we have the same mother..or twins. Huh. Didn't know demons could be twins too. I know a good voodoo priestess...just sayin'...

If you need to get all of this out, you could do it by way of fiction, change some things, and you're pretty much protected.
I say, if in doubt, either listen to that voice, or seek a literary lawyer and pose the question to him/her. Then again, with today's advancement of internet, you may be able to simply Google your answer.

Good luck,

kb

Uncarved
11-23-2007, 01:08 AM
Thanks, I am thinking I will go the fiction route and just change a few things. Names. Dates. And the ending. There's really a nonending right now, but I'd like to wrap it all nice and neat in the end.

I sincerely appreciate the help.
tina

Unique
11-23-2007, 06:02 AM
ok, here's a what if:

What if you are writing a memoir, and a scene or three has some negativity toward a parent, some truely horrid things, but all true and back-up-able. Do you write it as it happened and hope for the best in the reaction department(from the parent) if it happens to sell and goes to the masses? I've got a particularly troubling issue to address, but its all true.

write it. save it. publish after they die. if it's juicy... edit. set it to publish posthumously in case you die.

Susan B
11-23-2007, 07:15 AM
I enjoyed reading all the responses--thanks! Just getting a chance to respond now, at the end of the day.

Just thought I'd fill you all in on how this ended up. I had a very nice experience sharing the chapter I was most concerned about with my mother. She liked it and it opened up some more recollections about her family and early experiences, was able to correct a couple of things (spelling of a name, someone's age.) So that was helpful. (Book won't be published till 2009, so there is plenty of time for tweaking and small edits.)

It probably helps that I'm not critical of anyone in my immediate family--or anyone still living. It's just that some aspects of my mother's family history are painful for her and something she's tended to downplay. But she seemed to appreciate why mentioning it was relevant to my story--and my love and respect for her obviously came through in the chapter.

She did mention that she probably wouldn't be able to show the book to some of her old friends, since she'd not shared some of this with them. She didn't seem too bothered by this--and she didn't state the obvious,that unless she put it in their laps there wasn't much risk they--or anyone--would stumble on my book :-)

All in all, a very nice Thanksgiving.

Susan B
11-24-2007, 05:20 AM
My mother seems even more comfortable with my writing than I realized. By the end of the day she was suggesting that the chapter (much of it about her) could probably stand on its own, so maybe I should try to get it published as a preview of the book :-)

My husband also told me that she'd been near-effusive in her initial reaction, when only he was around (I'd gone out jogging right after I gave her the chapter--to nervous to hang around!)

So it's ended surprisingly well.

pollykahl
11-24-2007, 10:29 AM
Here's an old discussion addressing some of these emotional and legal issues. Hope it helps. I know there are others on this site too...somewhere. It's a discussion that is pertinent to many of us so it raises it's head now and then.

http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=55518

Susan B
11-24-2007, 06:25 PM
Here's an old discussion addressing some of these emotional and legal issues. Hope it helps. I know there are others on this site too...somewhere. It's a discussion that is pertinent to many of us so it raises it's head now and then.

http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=55518


Thanks, Polly! Yes, I well rememeber reading the earlier discussion at the time, and some of the suggestions, especially John Robison's. He is kind of my model for being thoughtful and responsible about this issue. I'd been thinking about looking for it to re-read, and now here it is again :-)

Cassiopeia
11-24-2007, 06:39 PM
This is just way too cool. Congrats on your success with the book and your mom. :)

If I got a book published that had my mother in it, she'd KNOW not to read it. ;)

jenngreenleaf
11-24-2007, 06:54 PM
I think it's so great that you accomplished this goal, for one, and that you were able to talk to your mother about it for another. :) Your feelings are similar to my own and that's what's been holding me back from starting the writing process. You're very strong. :)

Susan B
11-24-2007, 11:34 PM
Thanks, Jenn and Cassiopeia!

Yes, I'm very relieved-also lucky to have a pretty cool mother, all things considered.

And in one of those "life imitates art imitates life" things, we ended our Thanksgiving visit with a scene right out of the chapter she read (and finally endorsed). My husband and I playing Cajun music (me on accordion, him on fiddle), my mom bouncing around on the outskirts, then finding a triangle and joining us.

The chapter she read included a similar scene from seven years ago, which included my late mentor, a Louisiana-born Creole accordionist. He listened to my mom's first-ever triangle attempts then announced: "Your mother's got rhythm." Then, after learning about her family history (which included a no-good Eastern European father who happened to play the accordion) he said to me, "Well, then, it's in your blood, too!"

johnrobison
11-30-2007, 08:02 AM
It's certainly possible to write memoirs that don't antagonize all the people who appear in them, but you have to be careful. You have to carefully balance the needs of the story, the needs of the readers, and the needs of your friends who appear in print.

Basically, you can write any story from a sweet perspective or a nasty one, and the perspective kind of determines how your friends will see themselves.