Friday, September 27, 2013

Writing a Memoir. Getting an Agent. Getting Published. And Telling Your Mom.

Prom, bitches. Check out that 80s hair.
I've been working on my first book for about a year now. I hired a writing coach and she has helped me to keep on a writing schedule and to structure my memoir so it moves along at the pace of a novel. I want to keep the reader interested and I don't want it to suck. Yes "suck" is a literary term. You learn that in graduate school.

Also, I had the ambitious idea to write the memoir as a series of stand-alone essays. Each and every chapter has to have a neat beginning, middle and end. It has to have its own conflict. It has to resolve that conflict in some kind of satisfying way. And it has to have its own point or meaning because otherwise, why bother?

Doing this has been no small task but I am pleased with the results thus far. My favorite writers, people like David Sedaris, Augusten Burroughs, Michael Chabon and Jo Ann Beard have all done this with their nonfiction so I figured, why not me? Plus it seemed like an easier way to transition from a lifetime of writing short stories, essays and blog posts into writing a longer work. Cause that shit's daunting, yo.

The book is a memoir of my childhood. It covers the time period from one of my earliest memories ... maybe around three years old ... to 19 years old. I'm knee-deep in the high school period right now and things have gotten considerably more exciting, as adolescence is wont to be.

I had a literary agent contact me a couple of months ago, interested in the manuscript. This is why blogging is no joke, people. Everything you write on the internet is a potential to attract attention, both good and bad. In this instance, it was good. This is a fancy literary agent at a fancy New York agency. Whenever I write "New York Agency" in my head, I hear the crowd yell, "NEW YORK CITY?" like they do in those Pace picante salsa ads. Yes I know "picante salsa" is not a word, but I think it makes me sound even more Midwestern for humorous effect.

I sent the agent the first 50 pages and haven't heard back yet. My coach encourages me to believe that this is a good thing, because it means I haven't been rejected yet.

This is why I pay her. Because otherwise I would be taking a lot of Xanax right now.

Knowing that first 50 pages is out there has encouraged me to want to finish this thing. I've tried to pick up the pace of late, to try to get it done. I wish I had more time to do it. The full-time job and the graduate class are infringing on that a bit, but I think I can still manage. I pretty much either work on the book or do homework from 9pm to midnight each night. I heard that Hemingway wrote only for four hours a day, from 8 in the morning until noon. That is basically my bar. It has been set. My life's goal is to be able to write from 8 to noon one day. Or even 9 to 1. That, to me, would be success. But right now, I'm living the nocturnal version of the Hemingway dream, which is okay too.

Anyway, I think I had a point with this post but now I've forgotten it. Perhaps it was merely to catch you up on the status of my first book, to tell you a little more about it, and to encourage myself to keep on writing it.

Now that I'm on the adolescence part, it gets harder in some ways and easier in others. It's easier because it's all about me. I don't have to worry about hurting my parents' feelings because the older you get, the more you are responsible for your own life and actions. When you're a little kid your parents have much more power, clearly.

I've talked to my mom about the memoir, because you can't really write about being the child of an alcoholic without telling the recovering alcoholic that you're doing so. I mean, at least if you still want to have a relationship with your parent, that is. She is incredibly awesome about it. She says, "Your story is your story, and no one else's."

That's pretty incredible, isn't it? It's a gift. Possibly one of the greatest gifts she has ever given me. You know, aside from that whole giving birth to me thing.

I'll have to remember it in case either one of my kids becomes a writer. Lord knows I've given them plenty of material.

Now I have to get back to my memoir. The current chapter is about how I simultaneously developed both a crush on a boy and an eating disorder. Some of it's funny I swear! Okay, some of it's sad. It's kind of how the whole book is looking at this point. Inappropriate humor, dark humor and a lot of brutal honesty.

Now, where did I put that Xanax?



35 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. Count me in for two. One signed by the author that goes in a glass cases and one to read... So that's three!

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    2. If everyone I know buys three, then I'm totally going to be able to buy a really nice purse!

      Just kidding. Thanks for being my cheerleader!

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  2. How awesome of your mom to be supportive about that. I bet that means a lot. And I love that 80s hair :)

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    Replies
    1. It does mean a lot. It means the world.

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  3. Awesome news--and what the hell is he looking at in that pic?? I might have to quote your mom. :)

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  4. I hope you get contacted by the fancy agent. Then some day I'll be able to point at the book in a store and say that I used to walk past you in the halls of the same high school where some of the book is set.

    Love the prom pic, I have a few with the signature hair parted in the middle 'do' I rocked during that period of my life. At least I can use them to cause hysterical laughter from my kids.

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  5. I honestly didn't think it was that big in high school. Then again, this was "Event Hair."

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  6. No you di-n't with that prom hair, girl.

    And I am so excited about your book!! I can't wait to read it some day. Major props to your mom for being so cool about it.

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    1. Giiiiiirl, I have a lot of hair. It can get really high.

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  7. Dude.

    No, let me rephrase that: DUDE.

    ::chooses Mandy as new inspirational life model::

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    Replies
    1. LAUGH!

      I know it's serious when a dude calls me a dude.

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  8. Replies
    1. If that was Fred, he would be breaking the law.

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  9. I love the bow as well! I can't wait to read the book!!

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    Replies
    1. The bow. The bow. They actually made it for me, custom, and added it to the dress.

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  10. You've (all) come a long way, baby!

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  11. I could not be more of a cheerleader for anyone right now. Why? Because these kinds of childhoods, of triumph over the unusual and the test of life, need to be told, so that others can find hope and themselves, in the words of someone with the gift of telling them. THANK YOU. Thank YOU.

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    Replies
    1. Thank you. I feel exactly the same way. None of us needs to be alone with any of this.

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  12. Your date looks really interested in the orange grass. And to be frank, so am I.

    What's up with that?

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    Replies
    1. I think it's possibly water damage to the photo paper.

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  13. Oh yeah. This is seriously happening. Game is officially on. You're totally doing it. And Hemingway... I've been haunting where he haunts. Four hours is epic.

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    Replies
    1. By hook or by crook. It's happening.

      Four hours is the dream!

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  14. I sent in manuscripts that I never heard back from ... I call it Cowardly Rejection. They don't have the b*lls to just say no thanks.. they just leave you hanging. I wish you all the luck in the world, it is soooo tough getting published !

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    1. Well, I'm hoping since they sought me out they'll let me know either way. And I'm also hoping that if one agent sought me out, another will be interested if the first doesn't work out.

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  15. How exciting for you!! and all hail xanax.

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  16. I'm thrilled about your first sentence: You're working on your FIRST novel. I love love love that---love where you're headed. Go, Mandy! (I say that, and then I sing, "It's your birthday!")

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  17. You hired a writing coach . Fantastic. I want to encourage you to never give up your love of writing. What I am saying is to never stop learning,never stop writing ,it's in your blood now. I am throwing positive energy your way. I wish you the best. I hope its a best seller . "Its not how many times you get knocked down that counts, its how many times you get back up and keep going, that's what winning is." Rocky

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  18. I've never heard of the crushing teenage boys and eating them disorder. Looking back, it does bring a couple of relationships into a scarier perspective. Your book isn't even out yet and I'm already learning so much!

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  19. I can't wait to be in a bookstore looking at your memoir on the best seller shelf and telling the person next to me I used to read your stuff on MySpace and that we are practically besties. On second thought, that might hurt your sales, so I'll just smile happily for you.

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  20. There are writing coaches?? We can hire them and they'll advise us on how to make our book not suck???!!! OK, THIS is the most useful information I think I've ever gotten from any blog ever! See, I knew I liked you. Now I like you twice as much.

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  21. "Yes I know "picante salsa" is not a word ..." If you hadn't told me I would have simply trusted that you knew what you were talking about. You'd be amazed at how much you can bluff on the internet.

    So now I'm Googling "writing coach memphis" because, I have to be honest, I really need one.

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