Because The Story is Never The Story

Going to the park!A few years ago, I had to put my 4 year old Australian shepherd to sleep.

Lucy was not sick.  In fact, Lucy was robust and full of life. Until she bit someone. Attacked them, actually. All was well until it wasn’t. And then it was an emergency. One of those emergencies with a decision you have to make that you never think you’ll have to make until you’re making it.

Shortly after it all happened, I remember trying to write the story of Lucy, the story of what the hell happened. I rescued her. I tried to train her. I put her to sleep. I was devastated. But “so what?” I kept saying this to myself. So what. What, whatwhatwhatwhatwhat, was the story?

I recently listened to this short talk by Ann Hood about what makes a kick-ass essay. (I’ve now listened to it about ten times) I’ve decided she’s not just talking about writing essays. You could apply Ann’s advice to your fiction, to your poetry, to the fight you just had with your best friend, to pretty much anything where you need to dig, where you need to figure out how and why this all happened. Are you asking the hardest question … of yourself? Are you writing like you’re an orphan, like you don’t care what anyone thinks? Are you writing the hardest sentence you’ve ever had to write?

I finally figured out the Lucy story, but it took a really really really long time. A long time to think about, and a long time to write. I’m glad I dug in, that I waited it out, because Lucy’s story — which is really my story — will appear in the Tahoma Literary Review’s next issue.

If you have not discovered this wonderful journal who pays writers (yes, I said PAYS), here’s my favorite piece from their last issue: Gratitude Journal, by Leslie Pietrzyk.  It’s hilarious and heartbreaking, and you HAVE TO READ IT.

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Now.  Tell me about a special dog (or cat) in your life who is not longer here, and why.

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14 thoughts on “Because The Story is Never The Story

  1. independentclause

    I am fucking psyched that your essay found a home!! And I’m thinking of Jacqueline Chan Onassis (aka Jackie Chan), the kitty who bit my mother because her hand lingered on the cat’s head too long, my beloved cranky kitty, a five-pat cat, you could pat her five times, but the sixth time beware. She was beautiful and stripy and had a bit of a brown spot beneath her nose like a beauty mark. She was the first animal I was in charge of putting down. And I loved her. And she loved me in her cranky way. And I feel like we really understood each other, which is amazing considering our differences. Although I am cranky too. 🙂

    1. Teri Post author

      Okay, first, that’s an awesome name for a cat. Love that! And you’re only cranky a little of the time, Indy —- just enough to keep your reputation in tact. 😉

  2. Joe Ponepinto

    Congratulations, Teri, on placing the story in TLR. For the record, the decision to accept the story was made by our Nonfiction Editor, Yi Shun Lai, not by me. Also for the record, I have read the piece and it is staggeringly good. It deserves publication in almost any journal. Can’t wait to see it in print. Thank you for sending it to us, and thanks for mentioning Leslie Pietrzyk’s story in issue 1. We’re pretty proud of that one.

    1. Teri Post author

      I read TLR and follow you guys on Twitter, and so did not submit the piece until I knew for SURE that you, Joe, would not have to read it or make that decision. It was only when I saw that Yi Shun was the new nonfiction editor that I decided to send it to the regular slush pile, and kind of at the last minute!

      All that said, TLR is a gorgeous magazine AND I especially loved Leslie’s story since I, too, am a “woman of a certain age.”

  3. Les Brady

    Congratulations, Teri! I can’t wait to get a copy of TLR with your essay. And thanks for the links to the other inspirational work.

  4. Lyra

    Well done, dear friend. I love that others are now seeing the promise in your writing we’ve known about all along. Congratulations.

    1. Teri Post author

      You will love the podcast, Lyra, so I hope you can listen — maybe on the train. After I listened the first time, I looked Ann Hood up online. I think you’d appreciate her bio and her work both!

    1. Teri Post author

      What I love about the podcast is that she gives you actual steps, very specific things to look for when you’re rewriting and rewriting and can’t figure out why it’s not working.

  5. donnaeve

    Way to go Teri! A big congratulations! I look forward to reading your piece, while hoping a piece of me doesn’t come undone by Lucy’s story. I’m never too far from “the girls…”

    Looking forward to listening to the Ann Hood audio, and the first TLR piece.

    Very happy about this for you…!

    1. Teri Post author

      I feel like I’m heading up a promotional tour for this Ann Hood podcast, and am happy to do it. She’s brilliant and inspiring … and funny.

  6. amyg

    I’m soooo happy that essay found a deserving home. Congrats!!!

    Our first dog as a couple was a black lab named Elvis. I connect him with everything we were at the beginning of our relationship. He suffered from epilepsy, and at the end of his life, was struggling through cluster seizures throughout the day. He died just before we moved out of our first home – it actually happened minutes before we were having a showing. I had to call my realtor 10 minutes before she and her client were scheduled to arrive, sobbing, asking if we could reschedule, “Elvis has just died, and I can’t move him.” (He was huge at the end, nearly 120 lbs.)

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