The Next Big Thing

I was tagged to participate in the Next Big Thing by my friend, the beautiful writer Sari Wilson. It’s a sort of blog-oriented chain mail where writers ask some other writers to post answers to questions about their current projects, and those writers post and ask more writers, and so on.

Sari’s responses appear on her blog Muttering. Next up will be Laura Bogart, whose fierce nonfiction I have admired on The Nervous Breakdown, Salon, The Rumpus, and elsewhere and whose fiction I look forward to reading. And Eiren Caffall and I have tagged each other. We’re all answering the same set of questions.

A shelf of one's own
1. What is your working title of your book (or story)?

The first page of my draft consists of a list of potential titles. Right now I’m leaning towards Telling, or In the Telling.

2. Where did the idea come from for the book?

Soon after becoming a parent, my mind and body still reeling from that enormity, I learned that an extended family member was in prison for a crime he committed against a child. This news brought some of my earliest and most distinct memories into new focus, and my brain started to churn.

3. What genre does your book fall under?

Memoir.

4. Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

Gotta pass on this question. I’m not even good at this game with fiction, and my mind is absolutely blank when the character I’d be casting for is me.

5. What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

It’s about the times I’ve told people that I was sexually assaulted as a child, which also becomes a story about family lineage and contemporary parenting.

6. Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

There’s a third way: publication by one of the many good indie presses, which often consider unagented manuscripts but give an author some institutional support. That’s how I published my novel, CURRENCY, and the experience was pretty great. I would consider going that route again. But first I suppose I will try to find an agent.

7. How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

I’m still working on it, but the end is in sight. I’m thinking I will have spent about 2 to 3 years on the first draft, or first and a half draft, since on a sentence level I revise a lot as I go. I have found my stride, now, but I have a full-time job and two kids, and blocks of time are hard to find.

8. What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

The book I find myself turning to most often for guidance and inspiration is Fierce Attachments, by Vivian Gornick. I’ve also looked closely at The Chronology of Water by Lidia Yuknavitch, Half a Life by Darin  Strauss, The  Adderall Diaries by Stephen Elliot, and The Rules of Inheritance by Claire Bidwell Smith. These books all have a raw urgency and searching quality to them that I don’t see in most memoirs. They seem very alive to me in a way I hope my book becomes. I’m especially interested  in works where there’s a conversation taking place between a then and a now. Where the story still seems somewhat open and unfolding.

9. Who or what inspired you to write this book?

I don’t know if I’m inspired so much as compelled. I feel a need to make sense of various currents in my life in the best way I know how, which is through writing. And I also feel an urgency about shedding some light on the issue of child sex assault, which both exists in the shadows and in the form of  stock cultural images that don’t always fit the reality experienced by many of us.

10. What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

There are some good sex scenes as well as a couple bad ones. (The fact that sex is the first thing that comes to mind when I look at that question is itself a topic explored in the book.) I’m also feeling good about this book as a piece of writing, as a work of literature. However terrified I feel about this exposing personal nonfiction seeing the light of day, I sense I’m on to something, and I’m not letting go.

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