Remember the memoir?— I’m Not Nora Ephron, But I Might Be Virginia Woolf and Other Mortifying Tales of Writing. If not, you can get caught up by reading I’m Not Nora Ephron- Part 1 & Part 2, and then, come back. Please. It is my fondest wish— this desire for your return. Don’t misunderstand, I don’t need you to validate my self-worth; I’ve moved beyond that— I hope. If not, it’s time to redirect the money allotted for my therapist each month back to more important things like potato chips and chocolate. But I digress because…
Social Distancing is a part of my writing.
I’ve decided to take a vacation from writing the memoir. Not because of anything like writer’s block, which I worked through a few months back, which is an experience worth sharing and one you can look forward to, but probably not in the near future because the novel that is at the center of the memoir I’m writing needs to be rewritten. Again. Which means the memoir won’t land in a bookstore near you until at least 2037— because it’s starting to look like every book I write needs a gestation period of twenty years. Unless, of course, I can get the damn New Orleans story into readable, marketable shape sooner rather than later.
And that my dear friends, readers, and voyeurs all depends on if I can get the Social Distancing out of my writing.
Jump back to 2019, when I believed the twelfth draft was ready for primetime. I queried twenty-seven agents. Received one request for a full. Yay! But he formally passed along with seven others— “There’s a lot to admire here, but unfortunately, I’m not the right agent for this piece.” Nineteen agents ignored me. I shared these results with the published authors in my writing community. They encouraged me to keep on, keeping on. “Querying is tough. But there’s an agent out there waiting for your story.”
But I couldn’t stop thinking about my Bake Test for Writers, and found it impossible to ignore the whispers of the Snow Queen, “If the manuscript was truly ready you would’ve received more than one request for a full.” So, I shut down the query process, hunted for an editor, and found the perfect fit in Tiffany Yates Martin.
My first round of edits arrived last week. They came in the form of a one-two punch. One— my heroine has been in hot pursuit of the wrong journey. Two— although the atmosphere is rich and visceral, the heroine’s emotional landscape feels removed, as if delivered secondhand.
I immediately went to the not-good-enough space of— after all this time, how could I have been so blind to the real story? But the whine didn’t last for long because Tiffany was right about my heroine’s true story arc. The reason I couldn’t see it— it’s also mine. And the reason this truth has been easy to swallow is because Chuck Palahniuk prepared me for it in his memoir Consider This.
No matter what world you create you’re always dealing with your own shit. Same shit, different mask. You’ve chosen to explore a certain character because something about it resonates with you.
Enter Social Distancing.
Of course, my heroine shares her story from afar— not because she fears the emotional truth will indirectly lead to contracting the Coronavirus— but because I haven’t been ready to get down and dirty with the areas of my life my heroine is also dealing with: artistic dreams, divorce, abandonment of children, guilt, guilt, guilt.
Enter Virginia Woolf.
Not because she put stones in her pocket, which makes us kindred spirits, but because of her visceral stream of consciousness.
What a lark! What a plunge! For so it had always seemed to her, when, with a little squeak of the hinges, which she could hear now, she had burst open the French windows and plunged at Bourton into the open air. How fresh, how calm, stiller than this of course, the air was in the early morning; like the flap of a wave; the kiss of a wave; chill and sharp and yet (for a girl of eighteen as she then was) solemn, feeling as she did, standing there at the open window, that something awful was about to happen.
Virginia does not shy away. Her willingness to dive deep is why— over the last three decades— I’ve returned to her books again, and again. Not to figure out how to copy her style, but to encourage myself to throw away the censor once and for all, and write from the within the wellspring.
By the time you read this, I’ll be four days into the revision process of Treasures of Ruin— good, grief, even the title has been trying to get me to wake up and smell the mildew. Excuse me for a moment, while I sigh…By the time you read this, I’ll be four days into the revision process of what I am now calling the Magic 13; not because it is destined to be a magical tale, but because the first 12 drafts were not.
And so, until the end of summer, or the end of the pandemic— there will be no debate on which one will arrive first— the protagonist of I’m Not Nora Ephron will take a backseat to the one gasping for air in I Might Be Virginia Woolf; her name is Kaitlyn— a character who is me, but not me dealing with all my issues.
This is no small task because my former actress-self became quite good at not being me, which is another reason my writing is riddled with Social Distancing— a post for another time.
And now, if you’ll excuse me, before I get back to Kaitlyn I need to write another check to my therapist. Yes, I know, potato chips and chocolate are cheaper, but my story is worth it.