1. Remember that song from the 70’s? I Don’t Like Spiders and Snakes, and that ain’t what it takes to love me. You fool, you fool.
2. Last night I went to bed thinking about writing a letter to my 16 year old self. I’d seen a video earlier in the day on this subject and of course my labyrinth of a mind chose now to mull it over. What would I say to that girl? She does look like she needs a talkin’ to. I would tell her she’s smarter than her test scores. I would tell her to apply to colleges far far away, out of state. Colleges with real names. I would tell her she didn’t need a man to define her. I would tell her to wear 50 SPF sunscreen on her face instead of baby oil mixed with iodine for tanning. I would tell her to travel. Travel to countries where they don’t speak English, countries you’ve never even heard of. I would tell her to try it, just try it!, try anything, and don’t be afraid. I would tell her to eat more sensibly, to stop drinking beer every weekend, and to play sports. She would be good at sports.
3. Back to last night. My dogs got to spend the night in our room. On Maybe-There’s-A-Bad-Man-Outside duty. On Yeti Alert (an old childhood nightmare). At 12:14 a.m., Lea the Lab woke me up, yelping about some squirrel she was chasing in her nightmare, and I had to come-to long enough to shush her. In that very instant, a spider — a big hairy spider — jumped onto my shoulder like a cat. I kid you not.
4. Who can sleep after that? Thankfully I was already 30 pages into a fine book: Jasmin Darznik’s THE GOOD DAUGHTER. So far I love everything about it. Except … except it’s a memoir, and it’s told in the third person, and it opens in an era in which she did not live. How does she know her great grandmother looked at her sister this way or that? How does she know what her great-grandfather was saying? In other words, what makes this a memoir vs. a novel based on a true story?
5. I got up and wrote a couple of dialogue scenes without worrying whether I had it right or not. This kind of thing — is the dialogue exactly 100% true and right — makes me nuts. Last night I felt free of it. I write better at night. Always have.
6. Yesterday I re-watched the Oprah / James Frey interview, the kiss-and-make-up one, from last month. Here’s what I heard that I don’t remember hearing the first time: he said he originally wrote A MILLION LITTLE PIECES without regard for genre or rules. That he was merely trying to tell a good story of defiance, that he thinks all memoirs are fabrications anyway, and why do we need to write in a box of “novel” or “mystery” or “romance” or “memoir” and worry about how it will be marketed. (not his exact words; my interpretation) I couldn’t help but think, The man’s got a point.
When you write, are you thinking about your genre? About staying in your box? If you could write a letter to your 16 year old self, what would you say?