Jump Back to my dental office days. Doc used to share jokes and stories about his life. One of his favorites was the time his youngest daughter, who was in elementary school, prepared her first “how to” speech. Her topic— How to Wash an Elephant.
She planned it out. The night before the presentation, she practiced in front of her parents. She didn’t tap dance around.
Step One— First, you need an Elephant.
Jump forward fifteen years into my writing journey. The draft of the New Orleans story— the one I believe will land me an agent and a book deal— gets red-flagged. I regroup by writing the first draft of I’m Not Nora Ephron, and commit a writing sin. Without even proofreading the draft, I send it to my son for feedback. Why? Because I’ve learned a lot by writing it, but I’ve no idea if the material on those pages will resonate with anyone other than me. It’s also a hot mess in need of reshaping, but I’m clueless on how to begin. Fresh eyes are needed to help me zero in on what can be trashed ASAP.
He says it’s a coming of age story over a L-O-N-G period of time. A character being pushed around because she’s naïve, and she’s naïve because she doesn’t have the experience to know who she is. He says, it needs to be funnier, less about me, and more about writers or anyone trying to do something creative and having trouble along the way.
I read through the draft— it induces sleep. Blah, blah, blah, and then, and then, and then. But it needed to be done. When writing a memoir— first, you need a chronology to establish the timeframe and lock down the factual events in order to find the story. A process, which must be instinctual for historical fiction writers. Research leads; fiction follows.
Jump to the summer of 2018 and the beginning of draft two of I’m Not Nora Ephron when I realize the key to writing a not boring memoir.
Step One— First, you need a Protagonist.
A character who is me, but not me— someone readers can root for, unlike the protagonist of the New Orleans novel who still needs tweaking— I am now ripping off my clothes and running naked into the woods behind my house while screaming like a banshee.
Jump to me embracing my naïve self and reliving the agony and ecstasy of writing what I still hope will become my debut novel, and sharing the opening of that story with you.
I’m Not Nora Ephron, But I Might Be Virginia Woolf, and Other Mortifying Tales of Writing.
Don’t tell anyone— like there’s someone you know that would give a crap about what I’m going to do. Still, please don’t tell anyone, or even repeat what I’m going to say to yourself. I don’t want any jinxes out there.
I’m going to write a novel.
I’ve always wanted to write one, even as a little girl. I never told anyone because I didn’t want to jinx it. Didn’t want people to roll their eyes or humor me. Because I was serious. I’ve always been serious. Too serious for my own good as the saying goes. I know this. But I don’t care because serious works for me— at least it works in my head.
Truth is nothing works for me.
I planned to be a writer until a college professor squashed that idea.
So, I decided to be an actress until I was kidnapped my motherhood. But I was determined to resurrect the dream and help it soar by becoming a teacher of the Alexander Technique— only my heart wasn’t in it. So, I taught acting instead. But then we moved, and no one wanted to hire me, so I decided to kill myself.
But I digress.
I’m going to write a novel. But I don’t want to jinx it, so I’m just going to call it a story— a very, very, long story.
And I’m starting today.
But don’t tell anyone.