Friday, December 23, 2011

If you want to write the book, you have to survive the feedback

Day two of the memoir writers conference was off to a late start due to Dude's one week checkup at the community clinic. You will hear all about THAT later, because whew....... blog material.

But after the visit, I headed off to workshop with Dude. He slept while I wrote, and ate while we talked, and hung out not-so-quietly while my submission was critiqued.

"Crit" was something I was dreading, but was exactly why I was at workshop. Writing a very honest memoir means talking about some aspects of myself and some choices I have made that I am not wholly comfortable with. Ao reveal those details - and then sit there and let it get picked apart - didn't sound like much fun. But it was necessary if I was going to write and publish a book. Best to get used to the idea now, before my mother gets her hands on a copy. After lunch, I settled into my chair and steeled myself for the feedback. I had no idea what to expect. My biggest concern about writing a memoir is that I wanted it to be interesting and different - and I was worried that my life did not have enough that was interesting or entertaining to fill a book. Memoir is narcissism at it's most narcissistic, assuming that others care enough to pay for your story, and then spend their time reading it is awkward.

The feedback was positive, mostly focused on the fact that I only had 12 pages and I needed a lot more. We talked about choosing the story I wanted to tell, and how to illustrate that story with events from my life. How to talk about things that happened without "outing" others. Whether people mentioned in the book should be allowed to approve the stories involving them. We talked about the outline of the book, the parts of the story that would be most compelling to others, things I didn't mention in the book but which came out during our discussion by way of explanation. Every so often I would be explaining something and someone would shout "YES! THAT! Put THAT in there....that's GREAT!"

So if I finish this book and you hate it, or you think I got it wrong, or you wish I had left you out of it entirely.....well. You are going to have to take it up with my fellow workshoppers.

They think you are wrong, and that you can suck it.

And then we had a writing prompt. Write for 15 minutes about your favorite fruit.
I sat back in my chair, and man.....I was pissed off. Fruit? Are you fucking kidding me?
Whatever. Fruit. Go. (I think my enthusiasm really comes through here......)

I hate cutting these damn pineapple wedges. The entire bar is drowning in juice, it burns under my fingernails, and I wish I could scratch my nose where it is itching. If I do, the juice will run straight down my arm and wind up in my armpit. And then I'll have to go in the bathroom and DEAL WITH IT - and really, who has the time. I keep to the task at hand. Cutting up this damn pineapple. My god, it feels like I am cutting off more than I will be able to use in the drinks. It's wasteful - or decadent, I guess, depending on your point of view, and your budget. The worst part of it all? I can't have a bite. The customers are watching, it's probably a health code violation or something. I drop a few wedges in a plastic cup to sneak out on my smoke break later. Pineapple is my favorite - I love the crunchy/soft texture. the sweet and sour, the coat of armor you have to wrestle through with a butcher knife to free the juicy fruit hidden inside.

I live surrounded by pineapple fields - I had no idea what pineapple fields looked like until I moved here. The fields covered with spiny shrubs, the pineapples nestled down between the spiky leaves like well-guarded treasure. I had never eaten fresh pineapple - it was always canned. I learned as an adult that there was a good reason for that. Buying them in the store is a chore - they make holes in grocery bags, and crush the more delicate produce, and every so often they have a stowaway beetle or spider that alights on my kitchen counter much to the entertainment of my children, who scatter with delighted shrieks.

My childhood summers were filled with big cans of pineapple juice and the much smaller cans of coco lopez. My father wasn't much of a rum drinker - he was a vodka man - but my mother loved her pina coladas. So they would make a huge batch - without alcohol - pour some into cups for the kids, load it with another scoop of ice and a few slugs of rum, and make the adult beverage my mother believed was synonymous with hot summer evenings on the deck watching the sailboats sail past Castle Hill on their return to the harbor. When we were invited to picnics or barbecues,, my mother would bring ambrosia salad, loaded with chunks of pineapple and coconut, and mini marshmallows, the other ingredients almost an afterthought.

We never made a ham with rings of pineapple - and we never ate pineapple in the water months. Every so often someone would arrive with a shivering green jello mold for Thanksgiving dinner and my mother would discreetly shake her head and move it to a discreet corner of the buffet.

Now that I live here, and it seems as though pineapple grows everywhere I look, we eat it year round. But each time someone hands me a pineapple to cut up I always have the same thought. "Ugh. This is going to be such a pain in the ass."

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