Sunday, February 14, 2010

The Stew Project

There are so many truths in the world of publishing it’s difficult to know what to believe and what not to believe. If I were to believe half the truths I’m told, I’d give up right now and find something else to do with my time. But I’m cynical by nature, or am I not cynical enough? Do I still believe that a good story well told is worth something, even if everything I’m told says that’s not enough? Maybe it just has to be enough for me, though I hope it’s for more than that. I can’t write just for myself. Oh sure, I CAN, but I’d rather write for others, otherwise I could just as keep it all in my head and not bother putting it on paper.

This project is about a man dealing with mental illness, and me, the one who was married to him and who then undertook the care of him during the most difficult phases of his mental illness. He’s no longer here to tell the story, so my dilemma becomes: how to tell his side? Fortunately, he left me with much writing to use, and now the question becomes, how do I fit this into the narrative? What kind of narrative? Originally, we began this as a joint project, with each of us writing short pieces in the form of journal entries. But now that he’s not here, and I am, I’m looking at making it a memoir, mine, obviously, since that’s all I can do from this perspective, but also using his writing.

I’m still working on how to do that while putting together the pieces of what I have. I’ve set myself a deadline of July 1st for a draft. That’s over four months. With as much material as I have, and as many years as this project as sat around gathering dust, that ought to be enough time. Then again, I’ve never been a good estimator of how much time any given task will take. I tend to overestimate my ability to get things done.
And building a platform. That’s not tough, right? Here I am, someone who’s unknown, with no connections, can’t even get my friends and family interested in becoming followers of my writing, and I’m supposed to get strangers interested? But that’s the way it works, so I’ll keep working at it. There are a few people, strangers mostly, who encourage me, so I’ll have to make do with that. I’ll keep working at it.

And the writing. I need to do the writing. This book doesn’t have a plot, and no one lives happily ever after. Well, I do, I suppose, I’m pretty damn happy these days. But not Stew – he dies in the end, and I’ve been told that’s a major roadblock to selling this book. Good to know, but immaterial. I’m not going to give up on it just because he had the misfortune to get cancer and die. I’m still going to tell his story.

And hey! I’m going to have fun doing it! Life without fun isn’t worth living, is it?


  1. Hey, I just became a follower. The first time I've ever done that, I think. It's not pulling over my pic, which is too bad, cuz it's of Annabel. And it might be funny to think a kitten is reading your blog.

    I cannot even believe that I am going to respond to this by suggesting a book, but I am. Ann Patchett, "Truth and Beauty: A Friendship." There are many similarities: Her friend, the subject, was a poet and had physical and mental-ish problems (disfigured from having cancer as a child. The subject herself wrote a famous memoir, "Autobiography of a Face."

    But it's about very similar issues, about what you do when you deeply love a talented person who is, essentially, not in control of their life on a daily basis. I cannot promise it will help with the writing, exactly, but it will make you feel a little less alone in the universe, and give you some ideas to play with, about organization, and er...the kind of ethical considerations that come into play. You have great material, and the sensitivity to do something extraordinary with it. Don't listen to them. Ninety percent of "them" are idiots. Listen to your gut, woman!

  2. I think it sounds like an interesting story and sure you will do it well. I agree with Karen, listen to your gut.

    I've gotten in more trouble listening to other people and not following my gut..

    So why listen to me? :)

  3. You can do it!

    and BTW... I do believe dear Stew is quite blissful now.

  4. Why shouldn't a kitten read my blog? It appears dogs do. Well, that's my husband, with a picture of one of our dogs anyway. The book sounds great -- I couldn't resist and ordered it. What would I do without you, Karen? No, seriously . . .

    Thanks Gayle and Katie! And Katie, you're so right. Stew is doing just fine now. But he still finds time to prod me every now and then to get his story told.