Wednesday, April 22, 2009

A Follow Up


A writer friend asked what I ended up sharing with the author whose memoir I edited and posted on earlier this month.

Had I given the book more time before posting I would have seen that there were moments of depth in the story and ultimatley a well-contructed story with a clear story arc. I spent most of my notes discussing story structure, tense, and the inclusion of a second voice. However, there was also something to be said about the at-times too intense humor toward the beginning of the book.

So I addressed where the author was pushing it; where hyperbole was too obvious; where humor could have worked better if focused differently (e.g.,not just on sex; that gets boring, is too easy, and can exude an image the author doesn't want to portray). That's not to say I don't appreciate both brokenness and redemption. I do. I read mainstream women's fiction and get a kick out of the crass humor at times. But there's no denying it can be a little...bleh. Have you SEEN SNL lately?

It was a good read, and I'm excited to look over the polished product next month.

Friday, April 17, 2009

An Awakening of the Mind

A fellow editor and I were walking back to our computers after a nice walk to Homeland, and she asked, "Bruce Springsteen or Huey Lewis?" I had to go with Huey Lewis. I don't know much Springsteen but grew up with The News. Then she said, "Huey Lewis or Billy Joel?" I had to go with Billy Joel. Then somehow Phil Collins came up, and she said, "He beats 'em all!"

I realized that growing up I thought that every Phil Collins song I heard on the radio was just a Phil Collins song. I knew of a band called Gensis, didn't I? But weren't they just a side project for Phil Collins for some short period of time?

Well, no. Duh.

I then realized that I now knew that Genesis was something bigger than I'd always suspected, but that I'd still never learned much about the band. So, I finally took to Wikipedia tonight and learned about Genesis, and whoa...what a project. I had no idea. Basically every Phil Collins song I ever loved growing up (aside from "In the Air Tonight" and "Sussudio" and the song about the homeless lady) was indeed a product of Genesis. Even less did I know that Peter Gabriel (holy cow) was the original singer of this band.

I am now up to speed on Genesis, at age 30.

Friday, April 10, 2009

"If you didn't do some crying while writing this book, then the book's not done."

QUESTION: Can a person write his or her autobiography or memoir (there is a distinct difference) without crying at some point?

I'm editing a memoir right now that is very well done. There are some issues to be addressed, sure. But they're all very common and easy fixes (so far), except for one...

The author is good at humor. This is a skill. This is great. I read the Table of Contents and laughed. That was good.

Yes, there are moments that the humor can be cut, when it is forced or the hyperbole is too obvious. No problem. But this is a story about brokenness and disfunction. It is the story of a mother, daughter, and daughter's daughter trio. There are some really sad truths behind the humor, and sometimes I want to cry instead of laugh, but I can't, because the author won't let me. She forces me to laugh.

Is this good? Is it okay? Will readers feel cheated, or am I just an emotional basketcase who enjoys crying too much?

I've written some of my own story, and there was a lot of crying involved in that endeavor. Perhaps I didn't see enough humor in it as I was writing; there's definitely humor there; but that wasn't the purpose of the exercise, so maybe what I'm really doing here is asking this author to do what I did. Maybe I'm being too subjective.

In conclusion, because I'm clearly failing to pull my thoughts together: I'm going to think through these things and find a cohesive way to express them to the author. Currently my note reads: "Your reader wants to feel like you’re telling the truth more often. If you didn’t do some crying while writing this book, then the book’s not done. Some of the harsh reality needs to come through; I think a person who picks up this book doesn’t want just a humor book. And a book that makes you laugh AND cry will make you all the more marketable."

Still thinking...

(Also, in case you were wondering, that's only a snippet of my thoughts-note.)

Thursday, April 02, 2009

A Trip Down Memory Lane

My grandmother loved the Mills Brothers. We used to listen to their tapes in her car, and so I loved them too.

I was in an after-school program for a short time in the fifth grade, and the lady who ran the program created an Olympics event that included who could jump rope the longest, etc. One of the competitions was a dance competition. The rules were: you choreograph the dance (the first time I'd heard the word choreograph) and you choose the song. Only the song couldn't be longer than two minutes.

The movie Dirty Dancing had just come on the scene, and "I've Had the Time of My Life" had hit the radio waves big time. There were I think three of us who entered the dance competition: myself, Julie H., and Amanda R. The OBVIOUS choice was to go with "I've Had the Time of My Life," but I wanted to be original. I went with the Mills Brothers' "Opus One." Oh yeah.

So, the big day comes, and Amanda and Julie go up to do their self-choreographed dances, but the opener to the song "I've Had the Time of My Life," you'll remember, is rather long and BORING. Let's have a refresher, shall we?

You'll notice that by the time the ticker hits two minutes, we're barely into the dance-worthy part of the song. (Please note I'm being sarcastic. I realize one can dance to the beginning portion of that song with much feeling and grace. However, I remember one of my competitors spent almost a full minute lying on the ground before rising in an "I've just woken up" sort of way, etc. We were in the fifth grade!)

Cut to: Meghan runs out to her starting position and busts a dance to "Opus One," a two-minute (almost exactly) song that nobody expects!

Looking back, I'm sure that all of the kids my age were laughing at me and making fun of me behind my back. "What a GEEK!" But the lady who ran the program: she loved it. I took home the cardboard gold medal. And I think I won the silver in jump roping.

All this to say, thanks Kylie for randomly getting "Glow Worm" stuck in your head today and boldly sharing with two bewildered co-workers. This has been a fun trip down memory lane.