He Said, She Said, I Said: Point of View

Last week, I attempted an exercise I have not tried in years: I wrote a short story in the third person point of view.

Woopideedoo, you might be thinking while rolling your eyes and threatening to your browser. But hear me out.

When I started writing, when I was 12, all I could write was in the first person POV. Meaning, all of my stories were told from the perspective of the main character, who used “I” to refer to themselves. I read a lot of YA novels back then, and in the late 90s, almost all of the YA books (or at least the ones I read) were in the first person. I got the constant “I” experience: seeing the world the way someone else sees it.

As I started reading more adult literature in high school and college, I gravitated more toward those “I” stories, which were primarily stories about twentysomething women who lived in New York and worked in fashion and/or publishing (also known as “chicklit”). But when I read more literary fiction – the kind that’s considered good “art” as far as literature goes – I saw that it was primarily in the third person, probably because it’s mostly written by men who may or may not lack introspective insight. (Just sayin’.)

To me, the third person is the view that God takes of our lives. You see everything going on from the perspective of someone outside of the main characters. The narrator might home in on one particular character so you follow them around closely without being in the other characters’ heads, but the narrator still isn’t that person. There’s no “I,” only “he,” “she,” “they.”

During this time that I’m taking between writers’ conferences and moving, I decided to take up fiction again because I love fiction waaaaay more than memoir and essays. There’s just something about pretending to be someone else, going somewhere else in my mind. In the class I’m taking, we get two workshopping sessions for our writing. So I had to hurry up and write some fiction because I haven’t in forever. I decided to challenge myself: what if I wrote something that was semi-autobiographical, but told it in the third person, as that sort of God-like narrator who can see everything and everyone?

Reader, it turned out disastrous. The characters aren’t visibly clear to me, their dialogue feels forced, and the plot feels even more forced. (I have my workshop tonight, and I’m bracing myself for all of the comments I’m going to get.) In a word, I’m not happy with the way it turned out, and I could only keep asking myself, why I can’t seem to write outside of “I”?

I’m an observant person. I always have been. My eyes are big on purpose, I say: the better to see the whole bleeding world. When I tell my husband about something I saw on the Metro, I tell him what I saw, the way I saw it. Stepping outside of myself when telling a story is extremely difficult because I don’t know another way of seeing the world. I’ve never seen anything from God’s perspective, only my own, out of my very small, very judgmental lens.

The real reason why I wanted to try writing in the third person is because I write memoir and essays now: everything I write is about me, not “I.” When I write from the perspective of “I,” I don’t want readers to get confused. “I” isn’t always me; in fiction, it never is. See? Confusing already.

So, I decided that, since I’m having fun with this fiction class, I’m going back to write stories in first person. I’m setting aside this pseudo-fear of people getting my story and my stories confused. And this isn’t to say that I’m not going to challenge myself in the future; I totally will. I just want to have a good time, making things up, and the only way to do that is to tell “I” tell us what went down. Stay tuned for new fiction writing!

 

 

Writing Binge, Clothing Purge

Yesterday, I donated half of my wardrobe and one-third of my books to charity.

When I got home from the VQR Writers’ Conference on Saturday, I felt the need to cleanse myself of material possessions that were holding me back. So I spent Sunday going through all of my clothes, including the winter ones that were packed away in those big plastic bins. I was going to do the Marie Kondo thing of asking myself of each piece, “Does this spark joy?” But then I realized that “Does this even fit?” was the much more salient question.

I started exercising (mostly with weights) about 2.5 years ago, and I changed my diet to be a bit more clean(ish); as a result, my body has changed a lot. My shoulders are broader now, so little my cap-sleeved t-shirts looked ridiculous. My biceps are visibly larger, and they threated to break the seams of some of my dress sleeves. My butt has gotten firmer and higher, making some of my dresses inappropriately short.

I didn’t realize any of this because I hadn’t actually worn any of those clothes in the past year. Since I quit my job, I’ve solidly taken on the uniform of a writer: in winter, jeans and sweater, and in summer, shorts and t-shirt. Sure, I’ll throw in a casual dress here and there, but not really. Since I’ve been delving into some uncomfortable emotional places, I’ve wanted to be physically comfortable, meaning even in my wardrobe.

But, I did ask myself of some of my clothes, “Does this spark joy?” And for a whole host of my button-down shirts, slacks, and skirts, the answer was a resounding, “NO.” I am not opposed to business attire (I, in fact, look forward to wearing it again one day), but most of my work clothes reminded me of just that – work. My striped Banana Republic buttondowns reminded me of every Monday morning Investment Team meeting in which I felt that I did not belong. My shift dresses purchased on Gilt.com reminded me of my performance reviews in which one of my bosses flagrantly lied about my performance. I know they’re just clothes, but it was what they represented: denigration, humiliation, embarrassment, depression, sorrow, regret. All but joy.

There was no way I could hold onto these pieces and feel liberated from that crazy situation. One year later, I feel a psychic freedom I wish I’d had 365 days ago.

 

The last time I went through one of these purge phases was when I returned to the US from a semester abroad in England, about 11 years ago. I’d just experienced a HUGE life change – I’d spent half a year away from my family going to countries where none of my family members had ever been. It was obvious that my life was going to be different from then on, and I needed to make room for that difference. So, I went through all of my clothes and books, and donated everything I wanted to get rid of.

I most clearly remember packing up my shelves of chicklit. I had decided to write literary fiction, so needed to be careful of what kinds of books I took in: only those I wanted to emulate in some way. Yes, this made me a little bit of a book snob (I have not read any Sue Monk Kidd or even Harry Potter as a result of this rule), but it made my art better.

What is the big life change I just had that made me want to dump all of my old stuff?

A year spent doing the thing I have been most passionate about since I was 12 years old.

Spending the year writing my own story has been monumental. The amount of self-assessment I’ve done, the amount of empathizing with people who still hate me has been sorta nuts. And it has prepared me for the next phase in my life. I’m not sure what that phase is, and, of course, I plan to continue writing in some capacity, but it is clear that something in me has shifted and I sought to mark the change by making room in my life for new things.

That’s my “I’m paying attention to Bret Anthony Johnston” face.

All that being said, I should say how great the VQR Writers’ Conference was. It was very different from VONA, mostly in that there were white people at VQR (seven people of color among 30 attendees, which I suppose is a decent ratio for these sorts of things?).

Although the cafeteria food was inedible, the mosquitos were relentless, and a couple of workshop participants voluntarily read wildly racist material, I had a lot of fun. I met some amazing writers who I hope to keep in touch with, and my workshop instructor, Anne Helen Petersen, was incredible. Instead of doing lectures on craft, she led us through some generative exercises, so I now have a boatload of ideas for new essays, two of which I started at the conference with her guidance (meaning, she actually sort of outlined essays on the white board as we spitballed questions – it was INCREDIBLE). I’ve never had an instructor spend so much time on the participants’ writing, especially on generating new material. So while I couldn’t help think about the ghosts of the slaves who obviously inhabit UVA’s campus (you should thank them whenever something automatic works, like the paper towel dispenser), I felt honored that I was chosen to attend the workshop.

VQR readers

VQR Open Mic readers

I told myself that after a year of writing my memoir, I would take a break. I would drink tea and go to museums and write fiction, perhaps all at the same time. The point of that was to finally actually recover, since I’d gone from one emotion turmoil (crazyass job) to another (crazyass memoir). But VQR has restored my excitement about revising my book, and we’re planning to move into our condo soon, so my break might wind up not happening, and I’m actually okay with that. I guess it’s the next phase moving in. I’ve made room for it, so I should just open the door.

 

 

VONA/Voices: The Best Thing That’s Ever Happened to Me

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VONA faculty members lay down wisdom in a panel discussion about writing.

Last week was one of the best of my life, I think.

I spent the week at the University of Pennsylvania in writing workshops at VONA, where I mingled and sat at the feet (figuratively) of some literary greats, including Junot Diaz. My instructor was Reyna Grande, a Mexican writer whose memoir The Distance Between Us detailed her own journey crossing the border and how it affected her family.

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My instructor, Reyna Grande, reading material from her new, not-yet-published memoir. #sneakpeek

My piece—the first 20ish pages of my memoir—was workshopped on Monday, the first day of the week, which was nerve-wracking. I also happened to go last, after two of my colleagues’ great work was discussed, which compounded my heart palpitations even more. The feedback I got was brutal, but good: the child narrative voice I use in the early chapters limits what the reader can see if there is no accompanying adult reflection; also, my book’s overall theme didn’t ring through the early pages. Reyna’s personality was a little hard to read, and that made the workshop more difficult because I couldn’t put a confident “but she doesn’t actually hate my work” on it until the end of the week, after we’d opened up to each other a bit more.

I had a one-on-one meeting with Reyna, and that was invaluable. I mean, her lectures contained MFA-level material and the other workshops were great, but the one-on-one meeting allowed me to talk out some of the kinks in my story. I told her the basics of my story (my dad was a minister who was married four times and abandoned me and my older brother in favor of my sisters, with whom he had an inappropriately close relationship), and we discussed a short piece I wrote for her class, a letter to one of my sisters who made me feel like I didn’t belong in a most vulnerable situation. And that was the key—belonging. I knew that was a theme of my book, but I didn’t know how important it was until I spoke with Reyna about it. Therefore, having that 20-minute conversation with her changed the course of my book, and made me think that, maybe, I’ve got more than one memoir in me.

Reyna also had us write about our first time doing something, first about the physical experience, then about the subtext/what really happened underneath that physical experience. I wrote about my first (and only) time on a water slide. My mom took me on it when I was about 4, and it didn’t go so well. It was my first near-drowning incident. I wasn’t happy with the way I’d written the assignment, though, so I didn’t share it in class, but thought about it more once I got home, back to DC. Only yesterday, during a long walk to relieve some muscle stiffness, did I realize that the story wasn’t about my mom letting me go and me nearly drowning. It was about her putting me in harm’s way and not apologizing. It was about my needing to forgive my mother for everything that happened with my father. I had never thought about that EVER in almost 32 years, with all my focus going to forgiving my father and sisters. But forgiving my mother is equally important, and I was finally able to do that in my heart yesterday.

People say that VONA is life-changing, but I sort of thought they were full of sh*t, or at least way more touchy-feely than I will ever be. But VONA did more for me when I got home than it did the week I was there, and that is incredible.

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Renowned poet Patricia Smith and students shaking us up with a heart-wrenching poem about children’s concept of death. #blacklivesmatter

FIRST DRAFT DONE!!!

The first draft of my memoir is done!!!!

I wrote the last word on Friday, May 12, 2017 at 11:10am.

Final word count? 208,230 words. 595 pages.

So, I have quite a bit of editing in my immediate future.

While it feels amazing to have gotten the first draft out of the way, it’s a little surreal: I spent 10 months (well, nine, really since I lost about a month to the NYC to DC move and related planning/packing/unpacking) writing the story of my existence, from my earliest memory until just after my 30th birthday. I have a record of my whole life, basically, and that is just wild, if you think about it.

This is a bratty thing to say, but completing this first draft doesn’t feel like quite the accomplishment that it should be. Probably because I’ve written first drafts of books before, in middle school, high school, and college. None of those novels were anywhere near as long as this memoir draft, and I did not devote all of my time to them the way I did this book.

So I have to remind myself that this project has been special for a number of reasons: it commemorates my father’s life, the person that I became because of him, and people in my life who helped me become a better person in his absence. It is also the first book that I’m serious about, and will actually edit and query agents. (I went through the querying process with my college novel. I sent 10 letters, received 9 rejections, then gave up.)

My next step? To let this sucker breathe and to not think about it for a while.

I’m going to VONA Voices in June, so by then, I think I will be ready to tackle the Everest that editing this book will be. My plan is to whittle the 200k+ pages down to roughly 85k.

Yes, I plan to remove approximately 123,230 words—well more than half the book—that I spent almost a year getting down on paper. Writing is a tough business. Dems da breaks.

I’m not sure what’s next for me after my memoir. Editing will take several months and will be just as time-consuming as writing because editing is writing, but then I have to figure out what I’ll do afterwards. More writing? Go back to the corporate world? I have no idea. Let’s see what happens!

But for now, I rejoice and I edit.

Pitching to Agents: the Most Nerve-Wracking Exercise of My Writing Life

This past Saturday, I attended Books Alive!, the Washington Independent Review of Books writers conference held annually in the DC area. While there are panels and talks like every conference, the thing about this conference that attracts so many attendees, I think, is the chance to pitch your book to agents. I met with four of them: by far the most nerve-wracking exercise of my writing life.

I’ve been working on my book pitch for months, since before AWP in February, but I was still really nervous. What if I left something out? Or worse, what if I forgot my lines? Or even worst, what if they interrupted me with a question about my book that I didn’t know the answer to?

All of the agents would be sitting at desks in the room, and it would be very similar to speed dating, not unlike what I’d done with editors at the Barrelhouse conference the week prior. We got six minutes with the agents to deliver our pitch, ask any questions we might have, and to basically see if we hit it off or not.

As I entered the room for the first time, my heart nearly blasted out of my chest.

I sat in front of my first agent, a girl who seemed about my age, maybe even younger, actually. She introduced herself to me, then asked what I was writing. I said, “Should I just jump into my pitch?” My hands were shaking. She said, “Sure.” And I did. I delivered my pitch! I didn’t forget my lines! I didn’t choke!

“You did great!” She said.

“I feel so much better,” I said, audibly exhaling.

Then she said my story sounded interesting and she asked me to send her my first 20 pages and a synopsis! It’s a big deal for an agent to ask to read pages; they can decide later if they’re not interested, but their request for pages shows initial interest.

WOO-HOO!

My second meeting went well enough. The agent was nice, but she doesn’t really represent memoir unless the author is a celebrity or has a really extensive platform. Same for my third meeting.

But the fourth one requested pages, too! She was really conversational, and after I’d given my pitch three times, I was nowhere near as nervous, so I imagine that helped.

So, two out of four agents requested pages. 50% is not bad at all!

My next step is to edit the beginning of my book to make sure it’s a real hook/line/sinker. Progress! 😀

Speed Dating with Editors: My First Time

I attended Barrelhouse’s Conversations & Connections writer’s conference this past weekend, and I found it immensely helpful. The panels and keynote readers were amazing, but the thing that drew me to this conference was the chance to do Speed Dating with Editors from literary magazines across the country. Since I’m still relatively new to the literary scene, I’d never met any editors about my work, so I was both nervous and excited, and I had no idea what to expect.

Since we only got 10 minutes with each editor, I brought a piece that was very short (less than 400 words), so they could read really snappily. This short piece was sort of experimental: all dialogue, recalling a conversation that I repeatedly had with my mother in which she would tell me to call my father, and then a short convo with him.

I chose to do the piece exclusively in dialogue because the setting and gestures were not important to those conversations. It was more to display how the pain of fatherlessness played out in my life on a day-to-day basis, which was through my mother unintentionally constantly reminding me of the fact that I was not close to my father. The conversations with my dad were always short because, while he was friendly, he never showed the appropriate amount of interest in my life, so it hurt to talk to him.

Even without narrative or real prose, these ideas come across clearly in the dialogue. But I know that a flash non-fiction piece made up of just dialogue is very different from what is typically seen in the industry these days, so I was excited to hear what the editors had to say about it.

The first person I met, a man, did not get it at all. He told me that there was no story in my piece, that just because people are talking didn’t mean that anything was happening, and if I’d watched this in a movie, it would be pretty boring, wouldn’t it? He said that I needed more drama—the father missing the graduation would be much more interesting. This editor failed to give me any concrete advice, so I have no idea what he would have wanted me to do to make it better. In truth, it felt like working for one of my old bosses again. It really sucked for that to have been my first meeting with an editor. But I shook his words off, got Peruvian chicken for lunch, then met with my next person.

The second person, a woman, actually laughed out loud at the funny part of the story! I was thrilled! Then she said she really liked it! She gave me great suggestions, such as changing the title to something more emotionally evocative and to add, not narrative, but a meditation at the end that sounded almost like rhythmic poetry. Then she told me to send it to her when her magazine’s submission period re-opens! (EEEEkkkk!!!) I made those changes today, and I can tell you that I feel so much more confident about the piece. I pray that her journal takes it because it would be amazing to be published in it.

The third person, also a man, didn’t laugh out loud, but liked the risk of an all-dialogue piece and suggested that I make the piece even longer or more experimental. He didn’t embrace it with open arms, but he still seemed more accepting than the first guy, and that was really all that mattered.

I was seeking some level of validation by meeting with three editors, and I think I got what I was looking for. Reiterating, meeting with that first editor was absolutely awful and was so reflective of my work experience that I really wanted to give up, right then and there. But thank God other people understood me and my work, and proved that I and my work matter. I’m holding on to that feeling tight because I’ve got my first meetings with real literary agents about my book on Saturday, and I cannot wait.

The Fears Prompt

I don’t want this to be known as “The Fear Blog,” but fear is a theme that keeps coming up in my writing life that I was not expecting. I wasn’t expecting for it to be so consistent or pervasive. I’ve been stomping on fears one day after the next until last week…

As I’ve mentioned, I’m taking an online workshop with Sackett Street Writers, and it’s been a delightful experience so far. At the end of each lesson, there is a prompt of some sort to get to us to exercise whatever craft element we just learned about. Last week, our topic was “The Uncertain Self: Writing What Scares You.” In truth, I mostly blew my nose at it, until I got to the prompt, which was: “Make a list of ten things you’re ashamed of, or scared of, or feel vulnerable about. Pick one of those topics and write a short essay.”

Now, I tell myself that I am fearless (out of faith that one day I will be so; if you’ve read even one post of this blog in the past six months, you know that this is currently far from true), so thinking of ten whole things that scare me seemed impossible. Until it didn’t.

The biggest thing I feel vulnerable about is my career. Aside from tangential mentions of my last job experience in an essay or blog post here and there, I have largely avoided discussing the jungle-gym that makes up my resume. Because of that writing exercise prompt, I was finally able to write down on paper—with a pen, not even erasable pencil—that I felt like a failure because I couldn’t “cut it” in an investment job.

There was so much freedom that came with confessing this truth to myself. Instead of stomping on the truth to overcome it (or just look past it), I looked at this one. I made myself stare at the words on the page. I felt 20 pounds lighter.

I wish I could say that after looking the word “failure” for 30 seconds, I suddenly ran off to finish my memoir and bang out, like, 80 essays that I immediately submitted for publishing, but that’s not what happened. I wish I could say that I still don’t feel the sting of failure every day. But I do. But I’m glad that I can name the giants that I am facing. That way, one day, I’ll be able to clearly write their names on their tombstones.

I Wanna Go Deeper

This weekend, I submitted an essay to be included—if selected—in an anthology about the role of writers in our current political environment. And then I tossed and turned all night in between nightmares about spelling and formatting errors. Suffice it to say, I was a little anxious about submitting my work.

The normal thing to say here is that I was nervous about my work being judged or that I wouldn’t win the contest, so to speak. But, if there’s anything you’ve learned about me over the past few months, dear reader, is that I’m not *that* normal. I was anxious because I knew in my writer’s brain that the authors of the chosen essays went into the cavernous pits of their subjects and that I had not gone deep enough.

I’d asked for feedback on my essay from one of my memoir instructors at Gotham Writers Workshop in New York (and I cannot thank this instructor enough for taking the time to give me feedback, and while she had been sick, to boot!). One of her suggestions was to tie my personal story with the universal theme of the essay more closely. I’d upended the entire draft, accomplishing to the best of my ability what she’d explained, and I’d felt great about it…for about 12 hours, and many of those were spent sleeping.

As I re-read my work, I could feel my author self floating on the surface of the topic. I’d chosen to write about the trauma of one of my best friends dying, so I attribute some of the shallowness to that; I don’t particularly like re-living hurtful events, so my mind must have gone into a protective stance to allow me some distance as I discussed the trauma in writing. (I’m not going into detail about the piece because I just submitted it and don’t want to give anything away to the editor in a Google search.)

“Come on, Vonetta, you can go deeper,” I told—no, scolded—myself.

Why couldn’t I delve further into events that are eternally burned on my brain? Why couldn’t I remember some of the things my friend said to me that would have broadened the essay to a truly universal point? What was I afraid of?

I searched my mind for answers. It told me: The topic is painful and I don’t want to do that right now, and also, I feel inadequate. Do I really have the talent—yes, talent is necessary to join in matrimony personal and universal truths—to participate in this? Nope.

So, friends, that’s where I am today, sitting in front of my laptop, trying to prove my Imposter Syndrome wrong.

Today, I’m going to read to give my writer’s brain a little break. Reading other people’s work gives me perspective on my own. This is not to say that I compare my work to other people’s; reading boosts my sense of empathy. It allows me to put myself in other people’s shoes, which, in turn, allows me to better understand myself.

Right now, I’m reading Donna Johnson’s Holy Ghost Girl, a memoir about a girl who travels with a tent revival group in the 1960s. My life is pretty different from Johnson’s (aside from all the Jesus; I had a lot of Jesus growing up), but reading her story is helping me identify some of my deepest unknown desires, such as recognition by parishioners for being the child of a pastor and the power that that position holds.

See—I’m making progress already. Take that, Imposter Syndrome.

AWP17 Recap: Writing Tips, Crisis Catalyst

Two weeks ago, I attended my ever first writers’ conference!

The Association of Writers & Writing Programs Conference & Bookfair is a huge affair, with 12,000 writers, editors, publishers, and agents descending upon a city to talk art and the business of art. There are easily 25 panels going on during each time slot from 9am to 5pm, AND THEN there are after-hours events, where the magic (of networking) happens.

I went to soooo many panels, and they were pretty helpful overall. Here’s some tips that I picked up that I found immeasurably beneficial:

  • “Memoir isn’t about what happened; it’s about what the f*ck happened,” said novelist and memoirist Dani Shapiro, quoting a teacher she’d once heard. That is to say, memoir isn’t just about what happened to you, it’s an examination of the impact on what happened to you, and what was going on in the world. That’s part of what makes memoir universal: the common bits beneath the extraordinary story of each individual.
  • Think about jazz as you balance scene and reflection, suggested memoirist Marie Mockett. There’s a certain momentum created in the reader similar to that which a jazz band creates in its listeners, and music listeners know when the solo should end. Try to avoid getting the reader to the point of “Could the drummer please just stop already for the love of God???” by modulating reflection with scene and vice versa.
  • Don’t worry about how you will end your memoir since you’re not dead (and I hope you’re not if you’re reading this). Ask yourself, “What is the ending for now?” You could feel the crowd ease in their chairs when Mockett said, “Remember that a book is a made thing. It’s not actually you, it’s a composition, and you are in charge of that composition.”
  • Avoid revealing too much about minor characters in your memoir, and keep the focus on places rather than people. This will keep the real people in your life from being insulted (if they would be) by the way they’re portrayed in your story.
  • The voice of innocence relays facts; the voice of experience explains and deepens those facts with metaphor and spirituality. The voice of innocence isn’t necessarily your kid voice; it’s the voice you use at the point at which something is happening to you. The voice of experience comes in at any point after that thing has happened and interprets what the events mean in the grand scheme of things.

See? So helpful, and that was just the tiny, tiny tip of the iceberg.

After three days of conference action, I was exhausted, not just physically, but mentally, too. Looking around at the other conference attendees, I felt kinda small.

So many people who attend AWP have MFAs from prestigious universities and/or are critically-acclaimed published authors, like Shapiro and Mockett. I only just started writing a memoir 7 months ago after leaving a job in finance, an industry that couldn’t be more opposite to the literary world — how was I qualified to sit at the same table as respected authors? I felt like an imposter. Sure, I’ve been writing since I was 12, but I’ve also always loved business. I’ve loved concreteness, disambiguity, and seeing things as black-and-white, not grey, since I was a little girl. In one session, one of the panelists said that she lives in the grey because “the story is found in the ambiguity,” and, I swear, my skin crawled. I felt that I did not belong in this crowd.

I shared my feelings with my poet friend who was in town for the conference and my husband, and both of them said I was being ridiculous. Everyone has the right to write, they said.

Giving myself a good talking to, I remembered that I have a story to tell and I’m telling it, and that is perfectly acceptable. I’m trying my best to tell my story well; I want to be good at whatever I do, of course. I just have to be confident. There’s no room for feeling unworthy when you’re trying to tell others that they are. I just have to keep on trucking until I finish telling all the stories I have to tell.

Fear of Re-Rejection

I’ve faced the obstacle of fear one too many times while writing this memoir.

“What is it now?” You might be asking. “You’ve already talked about fear of your family not being pleased with your book; what the devil is it now?”

Glad you asked.

Last week, I was writing about my sophomore year of college. It wasn’t a year in which I spoke to my father a lot, so much of this writing focuses on the underlying impact that our lack of relationship had on me. That means that I’m writing more about my relationships with my friends and with guys that I was interested in (who were, of course, not interested in me. But that’s alright now.) As I sat down to write a scene in which I had a conversation with one of these crushes, my heart started pacing so badly that I had to leave my co-working space, come home, and have a fig bar and some tea. THAT BAD.

It took only about half the cup of tea (though all of the fig bar) for me to realize that the ickiness in my stomach, the sensation of bugs crawling on my flesh, was actually fear.

Why would I be afraid of writing about a conversation that happened over ten years ago, that is now so inconsequential, that I practically got hives?

Part of me believes that the visceral reaction is an answered prayer. I have prayed multiple times for God to let me feel the same feelings that I felt back then so that I can properly express them in writing. But with those sensations come the fear of being rejected all over again.

Yep, I said that.

It is a fear of being rejected by that same guy all over again.

“But, Vonetta,” you might be saying, “you already know what’s going to happen!”

Exactly! That’s the problem! I know that I’m going to get rejected and it is incredibly embarrassing.

“But, Vonetta, you’re married to wonderful man!”

I know, I say, shaking my head slowly. But that doesn’t change how I feel every time I think about that conversation.

This left me with a couple of options. I could either (a) skip that part and continue pretending none of it ever happened or (b) swallow my pride, face my fear, and write the damn scene so that others can gain a measure of comfort from my embarrassment and be a little bit soothed by my vulnerability.

I understood that (b) was my only option, but, man, (a) was really tempting. But I wrote it out, wincing all the while, and I got through it. I felt the feelings again, and they sucked again, but everything is okay now, just as it was then. I don’t know why I didn’t tell myself back then that being rejected by one guy wasn’t the end of the world. But that’s the benefit of hindsight and one of the easiest parts of writing a memoir. The hard part is believing that the future will wind up being okay, too.